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This Is Act­ing

Sia, née Sia Furler, has had quite the time since re­leas­ing 2014’s 1000 Forms of Fear. She claims that that record was put out to end a pub­lish­ing deal, but the un­forseen smash suc­cess in­spired Sia to pen her­self more pop. The re­sult, This Is Act­ing, her sev­enth stu­dio al­bum, cer­tainly hits the bulls­eye. The al­bum boasts a smat­ter­ing of songs that were in­tended for other heavy­weights: the Adele and To­bias Jesso Jr. co- writ­ten “Alive” fea­tures a boom­ing, soar­ing cho­rus not un­like “Hello,” while the trop­i­cal-tinged and bright “Cheap Thrills” is a Ri­hanna re­ject with a dance­hall-de­rived drum beat and a chil­dren’s choir on the re­frain. Sia’s vo­cal prow­ess is fully ev­i­dent, with plenty of the vo­cal fry she’s known for (akin to Björk’s ef­fer­ves­cent style, or Buddy Holly’s vo­cal hic­cup tech­nique). Her vo­cal play be­comes a tad tired dur­ing “One Mil­lion Bul­lets” as she puts an ex­ag­ger­ated breathy spin on the pre-cho­rus, but she quickly tran­si­tions to blow­ing the lis­tener away in the cho­rus. The heavy-hit­ting “Move Your Body” can be suc­cinctly de­scribed as a club banger; the fun, bouncy “Sweet De­sign” amus­ingly sam­ples Sisqo’s “Thong Song” and is paired with cheeky lyrics that ref­er­ence some­one who’s “got an ass like my sweet de­sign”; the ter­ri­bly catchy, Kanye-pro­duced “Reaper” speaks of evad­ing the grasp of the Grim Reaper and bad times in gen­eral. Re­gard­less, Sia’s got an un­de­ni­able knack for writ­ing em­pow­er­ing bal­lads and pop bangers, and both share the spot­light here. This Is Act­ing is a fine fol­lowup to 1000 Forms of Fear,

but doesn’t quite present any­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary or new; Sia sticks to her es­tab­lished play­book, with mes­sages of fe­male em­pow­er­ment, be­ing for­lorn, trou­bles in love and hav­ing un­fet­tered, do- what-I-please kind of fun. Some of the tracks, like the first few bal­lads, feel a tad ex­hausted and per­haps a lit­tle cliché, but that’s the na­ture of Sia’s uni­ver­sal, in­clu­sive pop mu­sic, and on This is Act­ing, she ap­proaches it in an in­trigu­ing way and per­forms it with gusto. (RCA) COSETTE SCHULZ

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