Lea Michele has endured a roller coaster of a year, but now she has an album to show for it.
Fun, energetic and sometimes touchingly expressive, Michele's album "Louder" is a solid pop debut from the seasoned Broadway performer that will appease even the most die-hard Gleeks and Leanatics.
Originally slated to become yet another stock, vanilla pop album, the devastating depth of Michele's journey following the loss of her boyfriend and Glee co-star, Cory Monteith, inevitably tinged "Louder" with a much-needed hue of intimacy.
"Louder" debuted at No. 1 in 11 countries, giving rise to the pop sensation Lea Michele will soon become.
That said, the album is far from perfect. In its attempt to meld Michele's streamlined, formally trained vocals with dance club beats better suited to Demi Lovato and Katy Perry, some moments border on awkward. Any true Michele fan will be pleased to hear Rachel Berry singing "Firework" type songs on repeat, but the music could prove difficult for a newer listener.
This is especially true of the album's debut single, "Cannonball," co-written by singer-songwriter Sia ("Titanium," "Wild Ones"). Chosen by Michele soon after Monteith's passing, the song is both sentimental and upbeat, proclaiming, "I gotta get out into the world again." Yet, the song would have lent itself better to conventional pop rather than Broadway belting.
Likewise, many of the songs seem to merely be excuses to showcase Michele's stellar vocal capacities. In the title track, "Louder," there is hardly a moment for the listener to settle in before being blasted by her formidable high notes. "Louder," along with many of the album's tracks, begs to join an energy-packed workout playlist or blast over the dance floor at Southbound.
Amid the flurry of dance beats, there are still a few touching, captivating moments. Michele's emotive ballads, "Battlefield" and "Empty Handed" (co-written by Christina Perri), exhibit her innate ability to imbue a refrain with compassion. With lyrics like "You and I have to let each other go" and "I'm tired of going on without believing," these ballads may replace the traditional stock of break-up songs.
Other honorable mentions in the collection include my personal favorite, "On My Way," a fun dance-in-the-car song, and the steady, gritty anthem "Cue the Rain," another song about a relationship gone awry.
But this album truly draws its strength from the heart wrenching "If You Say So," Michele's poignant response to Monteith's passing. Co-written by Michele, it is the most personal and moving song in the set, professing "It's been seven whole days without your embrace, I still check my phone and wait for you." Through its beautiful, haunting lyrics, the song gives fans an opportunity to grieve with Michele and cope with the pain of losing a loved one.
Overall, "Louder" is a solid first attempt by the Broadway star. Admittedly redundant in its relationship-themed crooning, lyrical clichés and up-tempo pop beats, the songstress' solo debut is redeemed by raw, poignant moments.
Michele is a gifted, powerhouse vocalist taking baby steps into the world of pop music. But once she gets her bearings, she will undoubtedly navigate her way to the top of the charts.