Songstress Sia sets herself free with ‘This Is Acting’
Intellectual property is a hot-button topic these days, especially in the music world. Gone are the days of Milli Vanilli, who lost their career because it was finally discovered they were merely lip-syncing when their tape started skipping onstage. Or further back, when Marni Nixon sang the songs for both Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Woods, but received little to no recognition for it.
Such a thing would never occur now. Musicians go out of their way to prove they are for real – making live performances distinctive from their CDs, and performing songs onstage that have not even been recorded. Many have started taking total creative control, right down to writing and producing their own songs. Who wrote the song has become just as impor- tant as who sings it.
Then there is a rare artist like Sia, who has spent many years writing hits for the likes of Rhianna, Beyonce, David Guetta and Flo Rida, but never seemed to hit it big herself. (It didn’t help that she very rarely showed her face.) Then “Chandelier” happened in 2014, and suddenly Sia became a household name.
Sia’s latest album “This Is Acting” is by far her best. (Don’t be surprised when it shows up on the Grammy roster next year.) She has a rare gift for writing both dance jams and arena-style pop tunes, all while keeping her lyrics raw and real. My iTunes classifies her as “indie rock,” which is both right on the money and couldn’t be further from the truth. She is indie – hard to classify, against the mainstream. But she also fits easily into the world of EDM and Top 40. And don’t forget those confessionals that paint her solidly in the singer-songwriter category.
The powerhouse opener “Bird Set Free” is the perfect example.
a scream inside / we all try to hide / oh we hold on so tight / but we cannot deny / it eats us alive.” And that very scream is sung as part of the chorus. It’s a unique kind of genius: she uses her flawed voice and introspective lyrics as a kind of barrier between her and the world, yet is it that very personal pain that draws us in.
“Alive” is another stunner that shows off her real vocal prowess. Co-written with Adele, (you can almost hear her voice in the soaring chorus), it’s a stunner. Originally intended for Adele’s album “25,” it makes you wonder why she didn’t sing it instead of Sia. I like to think the best and believe Adele thought it was time for us to really meet Sia.
Another favorite is “Reaper,” a laid-back groove that is already being heralded as one of the best songs of the year. (Don’t worry, the song is much more light-hearted than its title.) “Cheap Thrills” is the party jam that I’m sure will get heavy rotation this summer. It celebrates life that can be enjoyed without money – just a dance floor and someone to share it with.
Start to finish, the album’s an incredible and varied experiment in catchy hooks and poignant lyrics. I think it’s safe to say to say that Sia has finally arrived – no lipsync necessary.
Jill Cluff is a sometimes librarian who is married to one giant and mom to two boys. She loves all things book- and food-related – often at the same time.