Our last article, All You Need Is Less, was inspired by the Netflix documentary about the Minimalist Movement gathering a significant following across The Pond. We saw how people are being encouraged to declutter their lives and indeed their minds from compulsive consumerism. Such excesses they have realised, directed by Big Business (of course), is ultimately detrimental to our esteem, as individuals, to our societies (as we become ‘zombified’ hunting for ‘bargains’ (instead of brains!)), and our global environment, at large. We need to change the way we think, the way we consume, the way we live.
Change must come from each of us, individually. From inside each of us. This article was also inspired by another example of a ‘willingness to change’.
It’s this willingness to change, albeit from different harmful behaviours which makes Sia such an interesting character. She’s a person worth taking the time to understand. So, let’s use her art as the medium in which to do so.
Her latest record, ‘This is Acting’, is the seventh ‘long-player’ offering from Australian born, Ms. Sia Furler. She has been around the music industry for many years, notably composing material for many ‘Big Hitters’ from the pop landscape such as Rihanna (‘Diamonds’), David Guetta (‘Titanium’) and Flo Rida (‘Wild Ones’). After many failed attempts endeavouring to become a standalone, recognised singer herself, she finally had a global smash with ‘Chandelier’ in 2014. Last year, ‘This Is Acting’ was released, and just prior to Christmas, the original album was complemented by an additional seven tracks in the deluxe edition.
As touched upon earlier, Sia has had her own adversities throughout her life, about which she explains candidly during her Carpool Karaoke episode with James Corden. (This is a girl who has a sense of humour and certainly appears secure in ‘her own skin’).
In the bigger picture, Sia must be commended for her determination never to give up on her dream striving to achieve ‘success’ in the ‘pop music genre’. In order to do so she made the necessary changes to her way of living. One of these changes, (whilst on the job only, we hope!) is the wearing of a bizarre wig, which covers her face, exposing only her red lips. In doing so, she keeps her anonymity secure from prying eyes, paparazzi and the other predatorial voyeurs of celebrities. She’s open about! She wants to keep a safe distance from the bubble-gum landscape of celebrity. Make no mistake, this ‘gimmick’ is a shield for her survival. Her music videos, even feature the teenage dance sensation Maddie Ziegler, portraying a younger (and probably more flexible), Sia!
It seems that at times her music too wants to keep that same distance away from the paper-thin substance of pop culture. The ‘This is Acting’ album is not merely a ‘pop-offering’ – it’s much more complex than that.
It’s a record of Revival. The album starts with the line: ‘Clipped wings, I was a broken thing’ (Bird Set Free).
It’s a record of motivation. (I challenge you, Dear Reader, to find a more motivational song than ‘Alive’. It seems every sinew of breath is released during the song’s lung-bursting finale).
It’s a record of uncertainty (One Million Bullets – ‘I want you to know I’d take a million babe – how many would you take?’). And that’s just the opening trilogy of tracks.
The album, of course is ‘pop-tastic’ too, adorned with floor-fillers such as Move Your Body, The Greatest, Unstoppable and Cheap Thrills (featuring the ‘guaranteed-hit’ generating Reggae-Reggae condiment of Sean Paul on the deluxe track listing!). These tracks are indeed upbeat candy-floss, musically. Lyrically, they continue the album’s theme of steadfastness, robustness, unwillingness to break.
The record also takes you towards ‘desolation’ through the barren exposures of romantic (marital?) break up (Space Between, Midnight Decisions, Jesus Wept). The stand-out track on the album is indeed the haunting, Space Between. Anyone who has suffered the protracted end of a loving relationship, will understand the pain in this song. (‘A never-ending sentence in my head, we lay hollow in the emptiness, I’m too tired to push you from the bed….no more fighting for us’). It’s excruciating in its misery. It’s the last track on the original release of ‘Acting’. Remember how you felt after hearing ‘Something In The Way’ bookending Nirvana’s Nevermind? Remember how, for moments after, you found yourself needing recompose yourself. Even having listened to the deluxe edition, this song stays with you long after the album has ended. Space Between is epic in its despair.
Sia exhibits considerable agility with her voice throughout – echoes of Maverick Sabre on One Million Bullets; Amy Winehouse on the deathly fun ‘Reaper’; Alive – simply ‘wow!’ and En Vogue on Sweet Designs. To think, as a journalistic counterpart described the rejection of some of these songs by other artists from the upper echelons of the pop landscape (e.g. Adele, Shakira and Rihanna) as a weakness in the material is wrong. Their loss is Sia’s gain.
In future, Sia shouldn’t be too willing to ‘give her songs away’! She has a story to tell, and there is no one better to tell it, than herself. On this album, she shows she is more than capable to successfully carry such a surprisingly complex ‘pop’ record by herself.
After all, it’s only acting.
Ref: Personal-a-Teas Selfie: Loose Leaf Tea (Digital Light); Adam O’ Dwyer (E-Tea)