Album Review: Sia - This is Acting

4/5

Sia Furler is an enigma concealed in plain sight. She refuses to be photographed and rarely gives interviews. Performing on Saturday Night Live, last November — introduced by Donald Trump, of all people — the 40-year-old Australian hid beneath a space-age wig. Behold the ultimate contradiction: a pop star who rejects fame. “It’s horrible,” Furler once told the New York Times, of her struggle with becoming a public face (her only media tete-a-tete of note in the past decade). “I just wanted to have a private life. Once, as my friend was telling me they had cancer, someone came up and asked, in the middle of the conversation, if they could take a photograph with me. ”

Clearly, Furler didn’t know what she was letting herself in for, as, already an established writer and producer, she decided, in the mid-2000s, that she might like a pop career of her own. She quickly achieved recognition, no matter that her fame was far-removed from that experienced by collaborators and disciples, such as Katy Perry. Still, even this moderate exposure proved too much.

Yet the Greta Garbo routine, though unquestionably from a sincere place, is arguably a deflection from her music, which, as her second album in just over two years demonstrates, raises histrionic pop to a fine art.

Sia’s voice has some of the thunderous oomph of Beyonce, while songs such as ‘Bird Set Free’ and ‘House On Fire’ are Rihanna-grade sinuous. However, the pain and ardour lift the material above the workaday.

On the single ‘Alive’, she invests an otherwise unremarkable r’n’b outing with Bjork kookiness; later, a cacophonous ‘Unstoppable’ invites the listener to consider what Lady Gaga singing a Kurt Cobain song might sound like.

The answer is high-kicking, hard-punching and riveting.


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