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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

November 20, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Sia packs meaning into quirky tracks

"This is Acting"

Sia

In 2014, singer-songwriter Sia released her album “1000 Forms of Fear,” which received four Grammy nominations for her iconic song “Chandelier” alone. Now Sia is back again with “This is Acting,” an album explicitly featuring songs that she had intentionally written for other artists instead of for herself. Considering the songs on the album were not intended to be sung by the Aussie songstress, Sia is essentially acting out, or playing pretend.

The album starts off with a strong melody and intense vocals in the song “Bird Set Free,” where she sings the lyrics, “I don’t care if I sing off key/ I’ll find myself in my melodies/ I sing for love, I sing for me/ I’ll shout it out like a bird set free.” This song sets the tone for the rest of the album, almost like a preface to the listener that, although the songs may not be sung to perfection, it’s her personal relief and search for self. The imperfections become apparent throughout the album with tracks like “Alive” and “Sweet Design,” both songs that have choruses at a relatively high pitch that Sia does not execute as well as others might.

It’s hard to find a cohesive aspect about the album. Almost every song has a different attribute that doesn’t match with the rest of the tracks at all. It’s not until the lyrics are listened to very carefully that a commonality is found, this being a search for self-discovery. It is unknown if this is Sia’s personally trying to find herself, or if this is just a songwriting angle she decided to explore.

The tracks on the album all encompass different tempos and melodies, and they almost sound like they belong in different genres at times. Though one thing that never changes is Sia’s powerhouse vocals. The song “Cheap Thrills” has a light pop aspect that expresses the concept of not needing money for satisfaction through life. Her songs are deep and sometimes very dark. While “One Million Bullets” is beautifully sung, at the same time it talks about danger coming and fighting bullets under the moonlight.

Sia should win a Grammy award for “This is Acting.” Although some of the tracks may seem a little intense and dark, they are always backed by strong vocals and melodies that almost distract from the lyrics. Her song “Reaper” speaks of cheating death but is so catchy that the premise is almost forgotten. The tracks may seem to be a little out there during the first listen, but by the middle of the album, her voice hooks the listener.

This album takes the listener on their own journey and gives them the chance to make what they want of the meaning. There is almost nothing about this album that makes complete sense, but this works for Sia. Uptempo songs have somber lyrics, while ballads reference lighter themes. The album is weird, quirky and avant-garde, but that may just be the intended purpose. It is unlike anything else, and in that it succeeds.