Sia repurposes superstar leftovers on ‘This Is Acting’


Sia This is Acting

Three stars

By the time she launched her career as a songwriter for hire, Australian singer Sia had already put out five albums of her own, garnering critical acclaim but limited commercial success. Since co-writing hits for Rihanna, Beyoncé, Kelly Clarkson, Ne-Yo and others, Sia has steered her solo career in a more pop-oriented direction, which reaches its radio-friendly height with This Is Acting.

A concept album of sorts, Acting features songs Sia worked on for other artists who ultimately declined to record them, which explains why Adele, Kanye West and Fun’s Jack Antonoff are among the credited writers. One of the reasons Sia has been so successful as a pop songwriter is that she can craft lyrics and hooks that sound simultaneously personal and generic, expressions of self-confidence and empowerment that could come straight from the heart of just about anyone. As such, Acting sounds a bit like the appealing but generic debut album of a new pop singer who has yet to find her own voice.

Lead single “Alive” features Adele-style soaring vocals, “One Million Bullets” showcases Rihanna-style staccato delivery and “Footprints” is Katy Perry-style empty uplift. All three sound like mid-level album tracks from bigger pop stars, which is probably what they would have been if those stars had decided to record them. That doesn’t mean Acting isn’t a fun listen, with its club bangers and many different ways of declaring “I am awesome.” But for a singer who started out by creating deeply personal songs, the acting on display here may be a little too good.

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