Posted April 2, 2014
By ROXANA MAZA
Bronx native Lea Michele, best known for her role as Rachel Berry on FOX’s hit TV show, “Glee,” released her first solo album, “Louder,” Feb. 28. True to its name, it’s pretty loud in a good way, with emphasis on Michele’s powerful vocals to deliver a feel-good album that is both moving and catchy.
“Louder” was originally due out March 4, a date that was meaningful for Michele because of its wordplay with “march forth,” indicative of her moving forward in her life with strength and hope.
Its meaning was tied to her tragic loss of “Glee” costar and boyfriend of two years, Cory Monteith, to a drug overdose in July 2013.
The album screams pop with influences from hit pop artists, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift – all who Michele said inspired her new record in a recent interview with Billboard. A deluxe album is also available, which features three additional tracks: “What Is Love?” “Gone Tonight” and “The Bells.”
What’s different about this pop album’s plausible party anthems is that they’re not meaningless in terms of their lyrical value and messages. The title song, “Louder,” with lyrics such as, “Wanna be remembered? Stand out in the crowd, don’t choke on the fire, it’s trying to burn you out,” keeps true to being a catchy tune with fast beats not only promotes confidence and individuality.
For Michele, it was important to begin and end her album with songs that spoke of different life experiences and dealing with the pain of losing Monteith and gaining the strength to pick herself up from the ground and march forth.
“Cannonball,” the album’s lead single released last December, tells of Michele’s need to rise above her grief-stricken self with strong, upbeat instrumentals which don’t drown her strong vocals out.
Michele completed her album in June 2013, but because of Monteith’s unexpected death, she put it on hold to decide if she wanted to add more songs. “Cannonball” was co-written with Sia Furler, an Australian singer-songwriter, and featured on “Louder” because of the its connection to how Michele felt after her loss.
With lyrics such as, “I was in the dark and then it hit me, I chose suffering and pain in the falling rain, I know, I gotta get out into the world again,” it transmits the message of Michele’s heartache and strength to “fly like a cannonball” into the world again.
All of the “Louder” tracks tell of different instances in Michele’s life, and many of them are relatable to love and heartbreak, such as instances where you’re in a rocky relationship, an unhealthy one or even a solid one. “Burn With You,” the third track of the album, tells of that story with lyrics that include, “we’re not healthy, barely breathing, but this pain keeps my heart beating, we are lost when we’re together, but I’ll follow you forever.”
“Battlefield” is a love-gone-wrong tune, but it takes a calmer more melancholy approach with soft piano accompaniment that accentuates Michele’s haunting voice. “You’re mine,” which begins with soft, lilting vocal notes, tells of a girl capturing the heart of the boy she loves and is cheerful all throughout.
Then there is the album’s most touching song, “If You Say So,” which offers listeners an intimate glimpse of Michele’s memory of Monteith. The song is a tribute to Monteith as it’s based on their last conversation and was co-written with Sia Furler.
“It’s been seven whole days without your embrace. I wanna see your face, I got some things to say. Was just a week ago, you said, ‘I love you girl. ’ I said, ‘I love you more.’ And a breath, a pause, you said, ‘if you say so’…”
The song is raw in its feeling, through which you can feel Michele’s grief of wanting to see Cory again and not knowing what’s real anymore.
It’s easily the best song of the entire album because it speaks the loudest of Michele’s life, her personal struggles and her powerful voice because it softens at certain times, which is a subtle highlight of her vulnerability to this moment in her life. The song is done with a beautiful piano arrangement and haunting lyrics that are true to Michele and her experience. It’s Michele’s willingness to expose this almost-helpless side of her that makes it so moving and memorable.
“Louder” is a great start for Michele’s solo artist career because, akin to country and pop singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, she based all of its songs on her life experiences, whether it was blooming love, heartbreak or the tragic loss of a significant other, in which the latter was a clear influence on the tone of the overall album. With Michele’s voice – loud, and powerful yet vulnerable – she told her story of strength and hope as loud as she could.
- Lea Michele
- Genre: vocal and pop
- Label: Columbia Records
- Recorded 2012-13, and released Feb. 28, 2014.
- Eleven tracks on the original album.
- Length: 42:29 minutes.
- Produced by Josh Abraham, Benny Blanco, Chris Braide, Scott Cutler, David Hodges, Matt Rad, The Messengers, Monsters & Strangerz, Colin Munroe Oligee, Ali Payami, John Shanks, Sir Nolan Stargate and Sean Walsh.
- Both an original ($10.99 on iTunes) and deluxe version ($12.99 on iTunes) are available.