You may have first heard of Australian singer-songwriter Sia due to her chart-topping single “Chandelier,” which rocked radio stations throughout 2014. The hit “Elastic Heart” was also featured in various television shows and movies, and both successful songs are off of her 2014 album 1000 Forms of Fear. To the surprise of many, however, Sia has actually been in the music scene since the late 1990s. She has even written songs for big artists—such as Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts” and Rihanna’s “Diamonds” along with countless other hits you’ve most likely heard on the radio. While songwriting is Sia’s primary craft, she is also known for her raspy, powerful belts and cracked, slurred vocals.
Although Sia likes to keep away from the spotlight—she began to hide her face with a blonde wig beginning in 2014 to avoid the attention that fame brings—her music often shows her vulnerability, personal struggles and fight to be alive.
Her most recent album This Is Acting is so named because virtually all of the songs on the album were written for other artists. Therefore, Sia is “acting” by singing these songs.
1000 Forms of Fear and This Is Acting sound very alike sonically—with the beginning of “One Million Bullets” sampling the beat of “Chandelier”—but this is not a bad thing.
Prior to 1000 Forms of Fear, Sia’s music was collectively alternative/new wave. Beginning with 1000 Forms, though, Sia delved into dance beats, techno synths and electropop. This Is Acting is a continuation of Sia’s newfound, more upbeat sound.
“Alive” features a chilling, belted chorus, similar to that of “Chandelier.” Though the song was originally written for Adele, Sia could not have done a better job of encapsulating the power and raw emotion of the song with lyrics like, “I wanted everything I never had/Like the love that comes with light/I wore envy and I hated that/But I survived.”
For those seeking a dance track, “Move Your Body”—fittingly titled—offers a break from the independent, introspective theme of the album with its upbeat and suggestive lyrics.
This Is Acting’s impressive number of highlight tracks makes it a five-star album, with powerful songs such as the opening track “Bird Set Free,” which speaks about rising above from criticism. “Unstoppable” is another inspiring song and speaks of being a “Porsche with no brakes.” The songs “House on Fire” and “Footprints” are also must-listen-to songs.
Produced by Greg Kurstin, “Cheap Thrills” is one of the most memorable tracks on the album. The track is accompanied by Chipmunk-esque vocals and cheerleading squad chants echoing in the chorus.
Lyrically, though, “Reaper” is a much stronger song. The song discusses the struggle of battling with depression and suicidal thoughts. In the song, Sia speaks to her mental illness, singing in the second verse, “Don’t come for me today/I’m feeling good, let me savor it/Don’t come for me today” and singing in the pre-chorus, “So close I was to heaven’s gates/But no baby, no baby, not today.”
A final standout song from This Is Acting is “Broken Glass,” a four-minute track where Sia speaks to her lover about their violent relationship. Sia pleas for peace, comparing their fights to stormy weather and rough seas, but still lets her lover know that she will not discard them so carelessly like broken glass.
Sia may not have written these songs for herself, but at the end of the day, the lyrics shine through her. This Is Acting clearly demonstrates how much heart and soul Sia has placed into every one of her songs—even if other artists rejected them. The album drips with emotion, emphasizing Sia’s musical talent in singing and songwriting, all while also showcasing liberation from her personal battles.