Putting it all out there immediately: a fair amount of warranted skepticism surrounded the announcement of Lea Michele’s solo debut in ‘Loud’. This was a girl who had obtained fame and fortune not in the traditional way a music-involved celebrity hits headlines, but by being Glee’s leading lady. As a result, people had a grasp on her singing ability and presence as an entertainer, but by ways of being able to inhabit an original song and bring it home as something legit, they had no such thing. “Cannonball” came crashing in with admittedly mixed reception, yet it edged more towards positive than not, and people began to obtain a little more faith in the starlet’s ability to sell a full-length record. Then ‘Loud’ finally hit shelves and those hopes were set in mostly solid stone.
Though the Broadway influence is notable in her vocal ability from beginning to end, Michele is able to convey a genuine emotion in her original numbers that one might have not expected out of someone who was, in the past, only known as a singing actress. This much is evident from the opening track, which is indeed her aforementioned leading single “Cannonball”, in which she passionately delivers a lyric regarding breaking free from what once was one’s reality and moving forward in life to embrace the positive and find one’s own personal freedom once more. An individual might not necessarily be wrong to say that this tune was penned in tribute to Michele’s late beloved Cory Monteith, especially since this theme is even more evident in other tracks such as “If You Say So” which acts as a direct, impassioned dedication to the actor that hits like an arrow through the heart upon first listen.
In fact, much of ‘Loud’ carries a similarly glum, yet hopeful beat to its step. “Burn With You” is an affecting, powerful lower mid-tempo track summoning sophisticated EDM instrumentation to assist in conveying how deep her love is for the center-most figure of the song. The track’s successor, “Battlefield”, swaps the electronic palette for something acoustic and piano-based, allowing Michele’s purest vocal set to shine through on this stirring tale of past love ushering in regret. On the flip-side of things, “You’re Mine” represents a new age, pop-infused power ballad at its best and is one of the album’s sweeter tracks in its being able to hearken back to the happier days of which the meat of a relationship (hopefully) would consist of. Perhaps the most impressive of these other tracks, most of which tend to walk across the line of basic hook-centralized EDM-based pop, though, is “Empty Handed”, in which Michele delivers what might just be the best vocal she has sold yet, exhibiting an intense range and quality whilst summoning in some more individualistic pop/rock leanings to take the song home to radio-friendly territory all the same.
All in all, Lea Michele has succeeded in relaying ‘Loud’ as a Lea Michele album instead of a Rachel Berry album. Those picking up the record based on being a fan of hers from Glee won’t be feeling left out of the mix, but they are bound to become even more impressed with Michele’s abilities as an actual music artist than ever before. Though her stage play-esque aura brought on by working for years on the show remains front and center throughout the entire production, it is the purity which shines through in her ability to genuinely emote which will separate her from other pop acts as the years go by. When Glee is one day but a thing of the past like all great shows inevitably end up becoming, it will be the most interesting aspect of Michele’s career moving forward, learning to branch out from her TV origins and really sell an album representative of the true artist inside of her at their highest peak. For now, though, she’s off to a pretty good start.
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