ROLLING STONE
ROLLING STONE
2.5/5 stars

Between Broadway, “Glee” and now her breakout pop album, “Louder,” Lea Michele is generating a lot of buzz in the entertainment industry.

“Louder” is a nice change of pace for those accustomed to her typical, theatrical performances. It doesn’t have a wow factor by any means, but it’s a decent start for someone who’s just now branching out into the a different genre. With a similar sound to artists such as Demi Lovato or Christina Perri, this album, rightfully dubbed “pop” music, is full of fast beats and catchy lyrics that pleasantly contrast with slower tunes and soft piano ballads. However, Michele’s showy, Broadway-style voice overwhelms at times, which makes it difficult to accept her as a pop singer.

But since “Louder” is her debut album, Michele has the advantage of demonstrating her own unique style of music and step aside from everything she’s done before on the stage or on television. “Louder” becomes more meaningful when taking into consideration the recent death of Michele’s boyfriend, Cory Monteith — it offers a glimpse into Michele’s personal life.

“Louder” opens with “Cannonball,” the first and only single released from the album. The song begins with strong piano chords and heavy bass throughout, a common beat for popular melodies on the Top 40 today. The chorus lacks something, however, mostly because Lea Michele’s voice sounds as if it was made to sing for “Bye Bye Birdie,” not a pop song. She’s trying to hit a mark with this song, but she’s not quite making it. The repetition of the lyric, “Like a cannonball,” throughout the song isn’t effective, it’s just annoying. Nonetheless, there are some clever lyrics in the single, like “I let go of fear and the peace came quickly.” The lyrics are memorable not just because of the words themselves, but because some of them work very nicely with the music.

The album has its ups and downs in the middle, with some more upbeat songs like “On My Way” and “Don’t Let Go.” Both of these are definitely radio material, pairing light lyrics with predictable guitar melodies and heavy dance beats. The songs are by no means outstanding, but they’re fun. Other songs like “You’re Mine” and “Cue the Rain” attempt to imitate the same energy that “On My Way” and “Don’t Let Go” give to listeners, but they come off as dull and forgettable, offering nothing unique to set them apart.

The title song of the album is okay. It’s similar to her other more peppy songs and includes semi-inspiring lyrics like, “But I just wanna hear your voice/ Don’t be afraid/ Why don’t you scream a little louder?” Much like “On My Way,” it has strong drumming mixed with some synthesized beats and slight electric guitar. Michele’s vocals on this track are full, strong and mix well with the music itself.

One song that stands out among some of the slower ones is “Burn With You,” a song that is reminiscent of similar ballads by Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry. With heavy bass, complementary background vocals and a pleasing melody, this song is a gem within “Louder.” The lyrics and the music match each other well, and Michele palpably pours her heart and soul into singing. Everything clicks with this song, and it undoubtedly outshines her other tracks on the record.

Her slower ballads, “Battlefield,” “Thousand Needles” and “Empty Handed” really miss the mark when it comes to denser song material. All three focus on fighting, break ups, memories and lost love — nothing that hasn’t been sung about before. The slow piano, the melodramatic lyrics and the lack of a spark are common amongst all three, making them almost indistinguishable. If anything, “Empty Handed” separates itself a bit, using more acoustic guitar than piano. Michele’s vocals on the track are also lighter than her typical belt, which is a breath of fresh air. Overall, her ballads pale in comparison to most of the faster songs on “Louder.”

The final song of the album, “If You Say So,” cinches the album, especially since Michele has outwardly stated that the song was written after Monteith’s death. The lyrics are haunting: “And I can’t get away from the burning pain/ I lie awake/ And the fallen hero haunts my thoughts/ How could you leave me this way?” Slow piano accompaniment introduces us to the song, and the addition of subtle drums and string instruments help the song build emotion in tune with the melancholy lyrics. It’s not the best song on the album musically, but her emotions and struggles to deal with her grief are tangible.

It is definitely worth listening to “Louder.” A few songs might even get stuck in your head. Though it might not be everyone’s favorite or a stroke of musical genius, it offers the listener a glimpse into Lea Michele’s personal and musical journey while also setting the foundation for what has the potential to be a long and successful music career.

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