“It’s more than just an album to me,” “Glee” star Lea Michele recently told Billboard about her debut album “Louder.” “It’s a piece of my life that I’m so glad is here for me to have for the rest of my life. Now that it’s coming out, it’s unbelievable.”
It’s easy to see why she’s so thrilled. Up until this point, Michele’s musical success has been confined to Broadway tunes and the cover songs “Glee” belts out. But with “Louder,” she’s looking to join the ranks of Katy, Miley and Taylor – and it’s not an unreasonable leap. “Glee” fans are pop fans, so why not mix the two?
The album benefits from Michele’s highly trained voice, and she doesn’t sound out of place within the context of the dance-oriented club anthems and soaring ballads that are the hallmark of “Louder.” But lyrically, “Louder” is rather one-sided, as she often sings about the perils of relationships, over and over, in ways that we’ve all heard many times at this point. Still, it’s a solid effort that shows she has promise as a bona fide pop artist. Next time, hopefully, she’ll dig deeper into the Lea soul.
Which songs on “Louder” deserve to be turned up? Check out our track-by-track review of Lea Michele’s debut LP.
Co-written by Sia and produced by Stargate, “Cannonball” is Michele’s lead single, and for good reason. It’s an anthemic pop song about overcoming obstacles and rising above set to a nice, mid-tempo beat. It’s not too clear why one would want to fly like a cannonball, as she suggests throughout, but the song sounds empowering, and that’s the point.
2. On My Way – Michele starts off with a slow, pouty vocal that quickly gives way to another club-oriented track that’s about returning to someone who’s not right for you. Sobriety and intoxication comparisons to love run rampant throughout, as she belts out that her “heart’s too drunk to drive” and she exists in a “blackout state of mind.”
3. Burn With You – By the third song, it’s easy to tell that Lea has love on her mind, and she revealed earlier this year to Teen Vogue that this track was her boyfriend Cory Monteith’s favorite. “Burn With You” starts off as a soft, folkie number that morphs into a slow, warbled beat; the song tells the tale of two lovers who may not be right for each other, with dramatic lines like “I don’t want to go to heaven if you’re going to hell/ I will burn with you.” Rachel Berry would be proud.
Ballads are a natural fit for Michele, and on the piano-based “Battlefield,” she demonstrates vocal restraint when there’s often temptation to go big on songs like this. It’s another song about falling in love and breaking hearts, where the battlefield is the struggle to let go. It’s sappy, but Michele owns songs like this.
5. You’re Mine
At first, “You’re Mine” sounds like a low-rent Broadway rip-off, but it quickly turns into one of the more musically complex songs of “Louder.” The foundation is a mid-tempo, hazy beat, that pairs well with Michele’s soaring vocals and subtle, lush orchestration.
6. Thousand Needles
“Thousand Needles” is the darkest-sounding song on “Louder,” starting off with low-key percussion and featuring the dramatic image of why losing someone is like “having a thousand needles in my heart.” More pain, more sorrow, more exhaustion.
7. Louder – Of the title track, Michele told Billboard that “It shows off my voice as a singer, which is really important to me. I want to make sure that every song on my record is fun and enjoyable.” This track, above all, is deeply enjoyable, and finds Michele once again singing about overcoming adversity. It’s a song that would fit well on your workout playlist.
8. Cue the Rain – By the eighth track, Michele has shown a range of pop styles that work well with her voice, and “Cue the Rain” is where the album starts to feel redundant. There’s more fire references, more soul-searching and more wrestling with growing apart in a relationship. But on the bright side, it’s one of two songs that Michele co-wrote, and it doesn’t seem out-of-place or awkward.
9. Don’t Let Go – If there was one song on “Louder” that could be cut, “Don’t Let Go” should’ve been let go. It’s another mid-tempo pop song that features bland imagery about flying high as a kite and holding on tight.
10. Empty Handed – If you like the idea of Michele sitting in with Coldplay, “Empty Handed” is your song. It’s a slow-building piano-pop rock tune about letting someone love you, and it’s one of the best songs — and a deserving potential single — from “Louder.”
11. If You Say So
The final track on “Louder” is the second song Michele co-wrote and is about Monteith’s death. It’s a devastating piano ballad that, naturally, feels the most personal, whereas a majority of “Louder” songs feel tailor-made for junior high dances.