Despite traversing the pop industry since OnlySee, the debut record that will celebrate its 19th birthday tomorrow, 41-year-old Australian singer Sia Furler has only seen her fame truly catapult over the last five years. Prolific work as a songwriter – see Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Carly Rae Jepsen – followed ‘Titanium,’ her breakthrough 2011 collaboration with David Guetta, and This Is Acting marks her second album since the entire transformation of her image, primarily based around large wigs, following 2014’s 1000 Forms Of Fear.
Given its very nature, it is something of a surprise that This Is Acting feels like quintessential Sia. Each of its tracks was written by her with the intention for someone else to nab it, however their rejections led to Sia singing them all herself and collating them into one of the most intriguing pop records of the year. Each track suits her voice perfectly, even though they were never designed explicitly for her tones, and the flow between them is effortless as if becoming a cohesive album was their ultimate destiny.
The joy of Sia is the way in which she pours everything into the words that she sings. Her vocals ooze authenticity and passion, and at times it appears as if the emotion she conveys becomes so overwhelming that her voice breaks into a squeak. That said, she is a master of said squeak, knowing exactly how to use it well without overdoing it. It helps that her lyrics already give so much to work with in terms of poignant and memorable narratives – in particular, the opening pair of ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘Alive’ really orchestrate a sense of the journey that she has undertaken allowing her to be vulnerable whilst asserting strength by sharing the stories in the form of song.
However, This Is Acting isn’t all about seriousness, with tracks like the radio favourite ‘Cheap Thrills,’ to which Sean Paul was added for the single release and an album bonus track, and ‘Move Your Body’ offering light-hearted interludes between the real heart-wrenchers. This variety makes it an absolute joy to listen to, in equal parts due to the incredibly powerful vocals that she harnesses and its outstanding production and musicality. This record is a pure piece of pop, and the knowledge of the genre it embodies from its creator’s travels is reason enough to place it inside our top 10 for the year.
This Is Acting was released on January 29th via Monkey Puzzle and RCA