Anytime you’re rating or reviewing an album you need a bar. A bar with which to compare everything else to. There should be a few different options within each bar, the first option should be the bar set within each genre, then if you want to get technical, each sub-genre, and finally if the artist has enough material you set one in reference to their own music. The reason I’m bringing this up now is because two years ago Sia set that bar within the pop music world with her 6th album, 1000 Forms of Fear. I’ve mentioned this before but with pop music I have an approach, ‘can this song, this album, this artists abilities, be copied by someone else, making them less of an artist and more of a vessel. OR is the work their doing truly unique, something that when you hear it you associate it with them because they have made it their own’. Now, let me preface by saying that I love pop music, and it doesn’t have to be incredible to be unique. Jessie J’s first two albums were very hit or miss for me, but her presence, voice, and conviction couldn’t be mistaken. That music is HERS. I should make a point that her third album, Sweet Talker, while not without it’s misses, was easily her best and so good. Now, let’s get back to Sia and what is now her continued dominance in regards to what pop music should and can be.
I should start by saying this album is not her 2014 pop masterpiece, but still, her musical sense and style at this stage in her career is built for an almost sure fire success. At her core she’s different and this hasn’t changed since she’s been in the industry, her genuine uniqueness and talent is only coming to light after the massive (and deserved) success of her last record, but longtime fans are sitting back and enjoying what they already knew to be true. This Is Acting honestly flows better than 1000 Forms of Fear but doesn’t pack the same punch on a track to track basis. It doesn’t have any songs that I’m blown away by, though, much like the Rihanna album, this will often work in your favor as people will recognize the album as a whole rather than skipping to the tracks they like. Here she once again benefits from Greg Kurtsin’s production and assistance, who’s been the only mainstay during her last three albums (2010’s We Are Born to present) as well as Chandelier collaborator Jesse Shatkin, who plays a bigger role on this record. By keeping that familiarity it helps her build a more consistent approach, which is on display despite her employing many different producers on a song to song basis, unlike the past, where she generally kept a small crowd. My favorite tracks as of now all happen to be her more somber approaches. The opener “Bird Set Free” is a spectacular declaration of love to the music she creates. It gave and continues to give her life when it seems like everything else traps her down. With music offering that to me it’s something I immediately empathized with and from that bond the album was able to build on me. “Reaper”, the Kanye West produced single, is another that carries significant weight despite the seeming simplicity. Sending death away because of the joys of life. I love it. The other two are the final tracks on the album, “Broken Glass” , which has emotion bursting from the speakers, is followed by the intimate and powerful “Space Between” that recounts the loss of love between a couple. Obviously more upbeat tracks like “Alive”, the albums biggest single, the Shakira-like “Move Your Body” and my favorite of the grouping “Cheap Thrills” are all fun but it’s the heavier stuff that struck a cord. All in all this is an extremely solid follow up to her last record and I’ll be looking forward to see what direction she takes her talents from here.