Lea Michele has proven that she can command audiences on a hit television show and the Broadway stage, but can she do the same as a pop diva?
Michele, who has portrayed Rachel Berry on FOX's hit musical comedy "Glee" since its premiere in 2009, is ready to ditch cover songs and show tunes in favor of material all her own on her debut studio album, "LOUDER."
Already known for her powerhouse vocal abilities as a Broadway star and on "Glee," Michele, 27, has been looking forward to sharing something more personal with fans musically, especially in the wake of boyfriend and co-star Cory Monteith's untimely passing in July 2013.
"LOUDER really encompasses my experiences over this past year and my journey as an artist up to this point," Michele said in a statement. "There's a lot of emotion but it's also very encouraging and hopeful - it's about pushing forward and living your life in a way that's louder, stronger and bolder. I'm so excited to share this new side of me with my fans."
Lea Michele's debut studio album, "LOUDER," is currently available for download on iTunes.
Check out a track-by-track review of the standard edition of the album below.
1. "Cannonball" - Released as the album's first single, Michele sings about reclaiming confidence and living life to the fullest after a dark period. Anthemic in every sense of the word, the mid-tempo track comes courtesy of acclaimed songwriter Sia, known for penning some of the biggest hooks in pop music in recent years. Lyrics for the song include, "I let go of fear and the peace came quickly / I was in the dark and then it hit me / I chose suffering and pain and the falling rain / I know I gotta get out into the world again." While not necessarily a strong lead single, the track showcases Michele's powerful voice and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
2. "On My Way" - In the album's first electro-pop tune, Michele sings about a lover she knows is not right but can't resist. Lyrics include, "And my hearts too drunk to drive / I should stay away from you tonight / But in this blackout state of mind / Baby all I want is you tonight." The dubstep-infused track has a similar sound to pop singer Demi Lovato's recent work, particularly the 2013 track "Never Been Hurt," both of which were produced by the team The Monsters and the Strangerz. While catchy, "On My Way" overall fails to think outside the box.
3. "Burn with You" - In one of the most easily enjoyable songs on the album, Michele sings "I don't wanna go to heaven if you're going to hell / I will burn with you." Quite the imagery! The mid-tempo track features a calm electro beat that would seamlessly translate into pulsating drums if performed live. The song's chorus is melodically gorgeous and showcases restraint in Michele's powerful voice at times. Refreshing and pretty, the song is easily a standout on the record.
4. "Battlefield" - If you're a fan of "Glee," there is no doubt that Michele kills it when it comes to performing ballads. Lyrics for the piano ballad, albeit borderline juvenile, include, "It's easy to fall in love / But it's so hard to break somebody's heart / What seemed like a good idea's turned into a battlefield." Despite the often-cheesy lyrics, the song gives off definite Rachel Berry vibes, one fans of the character will appreciate.
5. "You're Mine" - Michele blends Broadway drama with an electro beat on "You're Mine," which finds the star singing about a lover she wants for life. Lyrics for the song include, "And I told you all my dreams and fears / And you looked at me and your eyes filled with tears and said those three words I've been waiting for / You became a part of me / You're mine." In addition to being one of the stronger tracks on the record, the Broadway vibes on the song alone will have longtime fans of Michele's spine tingling.
6. "Thousand Needles" - In another track that showcases impressive vocals by Michele, the singer agonizes about a relationship crumbling right before her eyes, likening the feeling to a thousand needles on her heart. Compared to other tracks on "LOUDER," "Thousand Needles" is definitely one of the darker offerings. The song's production is haunting and standouts as one that is truly different from the rest of the album.
7. "Louder" - For the album's title track, Michele commands listeners to "step into the light" for a club-ready pop jam. The song aims to be an anthemic celebration of a person's unique qualities, with Michele offering an opportunity to rejoice and emerge from the shadows. The song is radio-ready and is one that "Glee" fans could immediately identify with, as it echoes themes the show has championed for years.
8. "Cue the Rain" - On one of the songs co-written by Michele, she sings about a relationship that went wrong. Lyrics include, "Hard to remember what we left behind / But your hand in mine is hard to erase / And I find myself looking for you." The song is definitely not as strong as other tracks on the record and the relation of post-breakup melancholy in the lyrics "headlights and taillights, they all look the same" is, quite frankly, cheesy.
9. "Don't Let Go" - The song explores some of the same themes heard in previous tracks, so "Don't Let Go" is redundant by the end of the first chorus. However, the song's pop-meets-rock vibe is definitely pleasant to the ears. It sounds as though Michele is having a blast while singing the uplifting track and, really, that's all that matters.
10. "Empty Handed" - This song immediately draws you in with its light guitar-driven beat, different from other songs on the album. Lyrics from the song include, "All I've ever known is how to hide a secret / But I'm tired of going on without believing / And love is not illusion / Love illuminates life." Co-written by Christina Perri, known for her hit "A Thousand Years" from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn" soundtrack, the song has a haunting yet hopeful tone to it. Additionally, thanks to a male background singer's evident vocals on the song, you can't help but think it is a perfect duet for Rachel and Finn on "Glee." Cue the goose bumps and tears.
11. "If You Say So" - Michele co-wrote this track following the death of Monteith, one that is without a doubt the most personal song on the album. Lyrics for the song include, "It's been seven whole days without your embrace / I wanna see your face, I've got some things to say / Was just a week ago you said 'I love you girl' / I said 'I love you more' / Then a breath, a pause, we said, 'If you say so.'"
Knowing the tragedy of Michele and Monteith's real-life love story, it is hard not to be overcome with emotion after hearing the song. The true devastation and heartbreak is evident throughout the ballad and is a standout on the record. The song, however, should not be looked at as a somber one, but rather a testament to the true love the couple will always share.