Sia Furler has been a powerhouse in the game for years, both with co-writing and with her own music. When she wasn’t lending her pipes as a feature artist or writing for some of the biggest pop acts around, she was solidifying her place as her own solo entity — most notably with 2014’s monster hit “Chandelier,” springing herself into instant superstardom. At this point, it’s impossible to imagine someone saying “no thanks” to a Sia song being shopped to them, but her seventh full-length, This Is Acting, shows it’s very much a reality, and we couldn’t be luckier.
This Is Acting is comprised of songs that Sia originally wrote for other artists like Adele, Beyoncé, and Rihanna. For one reason or another, the teams behind these artists passed on the tracks, leaving Sia to take matters into her own hands and release them as she saw fit. On the surface, it’s easy to assume that throwaway songs will equal a throwaway album, but what you get with This Is Acting is an incredibly honest, straight-forward pop record instead.
Take the Kanye West-assisted, “Reaper,” for example: ‘Ye and Sia were never actually in the same room together working on the song; West simply left notes for her before she got to the studio. Sometimes things just happen this way, where not every major collaboration is done in a traditional sense — it’s just part of Sia’s complete transparency on This Is Acting that makes it all the more appealing.
“Reaper,” which was written for Rihanna’s consumption, sports an electric and bubbly feel that Top 40 radio is yearning for, while another Rihanna no-go, “Cheap Thrills” is darker but could still manage to keep a party going. What both of these have in common is that they’re heavily laced with Rihanna-esque tendencies, from the music all the way down to the vocal melodies.
That’s something unavoidable while listening to This Is Acting — it’s extremely hard to not imagine these songs being performed by their intended artists. It’s arguably the point of the entire album in the first place, but perhaps the songs are crafted so well that you’re left with no choice. It’s almost a natural reaction to hear Shakira grooving to the undeniably catchy “Move Your Body,” or Adele belting out to the powerful, emotion-driven “Alive” (which was pretty close to making the final track listing on her 2015 release, 25).
On the flip side, though, Sia pulls off the songs to a certain degree that you also start to wonder what Kelly Clarkson’s “Invincible” or Lea Michele’s “Cannonball” would have sounded like if she had kept those cuts for herself, too. If there’s any negatives with This is Acting, maybe it’s that Sia seems to try to give away her best work too easily. With songs like “Sweet Design” bringing us A+ bars like, “Word travels fast when you’ve got an ass like mine,” Sia, please, be more selfish with your music in the future.
Despite the record’s concept, it doesn’t change the fact that these songs stand alone perfectly fine as original Sia songs even when they were essentially told that they weren’t good enough. If one woman’s trash is another woman’s treasure, then This Is Acting is a goddamn goldmine.
(by Joe DeAndrea)