I like Sia. A lot. Her last album 1000 Forms of Fear was amazing. One of my favourite albums from 2014. When I heard she was releasing another new album so soon, I was very happy.
Normally, I do not pay for music. Arrrrrr, matey. Yeah… Anyway, when it comes to my favourite bands and artists though, I like to support them. So on January 29th, when This Is Acting was released, I paid my … whatever $9.99 in Canadian money is right now, and added the album to my collection of Sia songs.
I’ve been under a pop culture rock lately. I haven’t been keeping up at all with the few famous people I actually like and what they’re doing and saying lately. I knew Sia had been making several appearances to promote the release but I haven’t seen any of them. The only thing I knew about this album was that it is comprised of songs she had written for other artists and that, for one reason or another, they had been rejected.
I’m glad I knew that before I listened to it. Had I not had that knowledge, my first listen through the entire album would have been disappointing.
Don’t misunderstand. I like it. I’m no music critic. I don’t know what technicalities make for “good music”. All I know is whether or not I enjoy a song when I hear it or not. That is measured directly by how deeply I am affected emotionally.
I can’t remember now where I read or heard that (about the songs being written for and rejected by others) but the same source said she felt these songs were all hits. And I agree. They are. They all have that catchy, pop-y quality. They are all fun to listen to.
I had heard Alive, the first single and first track on the album, already. Great song. It’s got an “anthem” vibe to it. One of those power songs girls belt out to themselves in their underwear with a hairbrush mic in front of the mirror or while dancing in a club with the the imagined guy who’s done them wrong (or ex-bff, or parent) in their head as they get tipsy to forget their troubles or when they just need a boost. It’s a good mix of that uplifting, pump-you-up hit and Sia’s signature vulnerability woven into the lyrics and vocals. I really like that one.
Then it keeps going. And it’s song after song like that. Take a look at even just the titles. Bird Set Free, One Million Bullets, Unstoppable, Broken Glass, etc. Like I said, I don’t think they are bad. As a whole, the album is quite good. However, this theme… IDK. It’s a little TOO positive for me. If it were anyone else, I would immediately reject it based only on that. But, again, I really do like Sia. She’s amazingly talented and has a unique voice with that vulnerable quality to it that is unmatched, in my opinion. It’s that quality that salvages the collection of songs.
Individually, I like 10 out of the 12 songs. Two I’m still iffy on – one because it’s based on a famous Christian poem I have my own unfavourable associations with but is actually still one of the stronger songs and the other I just haven’t made up my mind about yet. Sometimes these things take awhile for me to appreciate. The fact that I like the majority of them right off the bat says something about them and Sia. That’s rare. My favourite is Reaper.
I am just short of loving the album and each of the songs separately because I actually wish she had just a little bit more of that Sia-ness. Maybe that’s more a reflection of me and my personal tastes towards the darker side of things. But that’s why I like her so much anyway. I related more to 1000 Forms BECAUSE she comes across as a bit of a hot mess. Strong and solid, but scarred, like her vocals. I identified more to that one.
It makes sense that these songs reflect more of the surpassing of struggle rather than being in the thick of it. She did write them for other people. But… she wrote them. They are still her, right?
Interestingly (or not, depending on who you are – ie. just me), my brain works fervently when I listen to 1000 Forms and I was even inspired with a story concept based on the collection of songs that popped into my head early on. (This has only happened to me with one other group. Maybe I’ll get into my whole Muse is my muse thing another time. It’s happened with 2 of their albums actually. Not that it really matters, since I have never attempted to actually write any of these stories down. But I do amuse myself with them.) This Is Acting is an enjoyable listen (and sing-a-long opportunity)… but that’s as far as it goes for me. As ‘inspiring’ as the content is, I don’t feel all that inspired.
I’m sure that’s not the case for most people. I’m sure these songs WILL become anthems for thousands of young women (and men too, of course). I hope they do. To repeat myself, I have strong appreciation and admiration for Sia and all she has to contribute to music.
I’ll keep listening.