“Alive,” the inaugural single off Sia’s forthcoming album This Is Acting was released over a month ago, but its accompanying video only dropped today. Once again, Sia is absent, instead featuring a bewigged and bite-sized doppelgänger: Mahiro Takano.
Since the release of the video for “Chandelier”—and the simultaneous revelation of 13-year-old Maddie Ziegler—Sia has interrogated the relationship between performance, identity, and the physical body. Her new album, This Is Acting, is entirely composed of songs she wrote for other artists (“Alive” was for Adele) and she uses her video actors as stand-ins for herself explicitly: In response to the outcries over the video for “Elastic Heart”—many accused Sia of promoting pedophilia—she explained, “All I can say is Maddie and Shia [LaBeouf] are two of the only actors I felt could play these two warring ‘Sia’ self-states.” (LaBeouf was 28 at the time of filming, and thus a decade and a half older than Ziegler.)
In this case, Sia’s self-state is manifested through Takano, a Japanese martial arts prodigy and child star who Sia found on YouTube. Spotlit and surrounded by rubble, Takano’s Sia “self-state” is a stalwart soul.
The character she plays is less inventive than past characters in Sia videos, uncomfortably tight to stereotype rather than subversive of it. It’s a waste of the talent of this pint-size dynamo, and shows that Sia’s game of constantly concealing herself yet attempting to represent herself through other people is tricky. She’s hiding in this video, but her instincts—which, in this case, are somewhat disappointing—are still right there.
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Video and Embedded Screengrabs via YouTube.