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Lea Michele’s ‘Louder’ should be quieter

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Lea Michele has a powerhouse voice that was perfect for her roles in “Spring Awakening,” “Les Miserables” and “Fiddler on the Roof” on Broadway.

Photo via rollingstone.com

Photo via rollingstone.com

She broke her way into mainstream television with the popular TV show “Glee,” proving that she can kill just about any belted pop song. Her singing history is mainly theater-based, and maybe it should remain that way.

In her debut album, “Louder,” Michele has some really beautiful moments and songs. True to her classical training, every syllable, every note and every pronunciation is crystal clear and meticulously crafted. Her rich, full-bodied tone and distinct vibrato are surprisingly well-blended into her pop dance tunes, and consistently delight in her ballads. However, the teeny-bopper lyrics are distracting and degrading to this wonderful performer. They also make the songs seem canned, fit for any ex-Disney Channel star looking to restart his or her music career. Michele is better than that, but unfortunately, she’s already lowering her standards to silly pop songs.

But this isn’t her doing; nearly all of the songs are written for Michele, not by her. If Michele had her way, she would have probably included more reflective songs on the heartbreak over the death of her boyfriend and co-star, Corey Monteith. Instead, the album features one too many upbeat, lovey dovey ballads.

The opening track, “Cannonball” is an energetic ballad that mimics Katy Perry’s “Roar” and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball.” It’s a catchy number, and there’s nothing innately wrong with it, but it’s tailored to fit the struggles of a 12-year-old suffering from a nasty case of “brace face.” The “rise above the hate” power ballad definitely entertains, but has no substantial lyrics.

Michele picks up her game on “Empty Handed,” the potential smash hit of her otherwise cloudy album, mainly because it could also pass as a musical theater piece. Its lyrics speak of loving without boundaries and giving when nothing is expected in return. It starts out slow and builds up to a powerful chorus with the help of piano jams akin to those of The Fray.

The title track, “Louder,” features a dance beat that sounds like it should be played in a club somewhere. Let’s hope it isn’t. Its lyrics “But I just wanna hear your voice / Don’t be afraid / Why don’t you scream a little louder / Turn it up” sound like they’ve been sung or alluded to a million times before. Maybe Michele should have just asked whoever she is singing about to talk a little louder rather than write a whole song about it.

The first real, raw emotion Lea shows is at the end of the album on the ballad, “What is Love?,” which she co-wrote about Monteith’s death. As emotionally ripping it is to think about the pain she’s gone through, this song would be just another track on her cheesy album if everyone didn’t hear about her struggles on TMZ. It’s unfortunate to know that her emotional year could have inspired some beautiful, hard-hitting lyrics, but instead fell short in a song that could be covered by Glee any day of the week.

Michele’s musical theater career is unbelievable, and her Broadway career will continue to thrive and grow. But I hope that with her success on stage, she’ll be able to forget about her failed pop career. Look for Michele on tour for a “Spring Awakening” reunion, not a sold-out concert tour.

 

2.5/5 stars

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