Despite some Six Feet Under-adjacent love for “Breathe Me” and plenty of critical appreciation for her first five solo albums, Sia Furler had found far more success as a songwriter than as a performer, having crafted smashes for the likes of Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, and Katy Perry. That all changed with the arrival of 2014’s 1,000 Forms of Fear, a remarkably durable piece of modern pop that yielded the instant radio staples “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart.”
With her self-consciousness gradually eroding and her keen visual sense sharpening, Sia is now an elite star on both sides of the recording booth glass, and her forthcoming seventh album This Is Acting, due out Jan. 29, reflects her newfound comfort with embracing her peak pop self. “The last album was a little bit of a departure from the albums that came before, so it was transitional,” explains collaborator Greg Kurstin. “On this album, I think anything is game, which is very liberating, just knowing that anything could work. There’s a lot of songs on here that we maybe would not have put on the last album.” Those tracks include the Swedish synth jam “Cheap Thrills” (“It’s like her take on an Ace of Base song,” explains Kurstin), the recently-released Kanye West team-up “Reaper,” and the dance-ready “Move Your Body.” “That is probably the most up-tempo thing I’ve heard Sia do ever,” says Kurstin. “I can’t think of anything on the previous albums that has such an aggressive, rhythmic song. It’s almost like a Brazilian samba.”
Once again the tunes will go hand-in-hand with Sia’s visual flair. “She has such great video ideas, and I think that informs the songs more and more—what’s going to fit the concepts she has in mind,” says Kurstin. “She’s very good at pulling everything together. I’m not really aware of it as we’re doing it, but as I’m listening to all the songs and she starts talking about concepts and titles, I realize, ‘Wow, all these songs really do fit under that concept!’ It always amazes me.” That makes (at least) two of us.