If Lea Michele's album proves one thing, it's that she can hold a note for a really, really long time.
Louder started streaming for free on iTunes on Tuesday (February 25), and at first listen, it seems like the "Glee" star took her flair for drama to the studio. What I mean is, it sounds a bit like Rachel recorded this album.
With pounding piano chords, cinematic strings and a blizzard of synths, the production itself embodies Michele's theater kid alter ego, starting off slow, building to a frenzy and ending with a bow. The tempo never pushes past moderato (that's a music nerd term), with ballads dominating the 11-track album.
As for Michele's vocals, expect strong support underneath those notes. I imagined Lea in a well-sound-proofed recording room, a foot away from the mic, just letting loose. Each syllable is enunciated to absolute consonance-iness (not a music nerd term). Take the first track, "Cannonball," for example, where she sings "Like a can-nawn-baw-oh." Imagining her back in the studio, I could see her carefully planning out her breath for effect, making her high school vocal coach proud. Or should I say "prow-u-duh."
So does the album live up to the "emotional dynamism" its iTunes blurb preaches about? That all depends on if you choose to listen to it in context.
If you choose to take in Louder while searching for hints about Michele's relationship with the late Cory Monteith — like 99.9 percent of listeners — you'll find yourself cruising through a story filled with unconditional devotion and betrayal.
In "On My Way," she sings, "my heart's too drunk to drive." She continues the self-destructive lyrics on "Burn with You," where she belts out, "I don't want to go to heaven, if you're going to hell. I will burn with you." She seems confused when the relationship proves itself tumultuous in "Battlefield," when she sings, "You and I, we have to let each other go," but later in the LP, she sings "Don't Let Go," describing their bond as a kite string between them, one person grounds the other as one side gets a little reckless.
"Cory had heard every song from the album, obviously with the exception of those two ['Cannonball' and 'If You Say So']," Lea told MTV News back in December. She co-wrote two songs on the album, including "If You Say So," working with Sia and a bevy of other writers for the project. "And I figured I had the opportunity, if I want to add anything, and we sat down and we came up with 'If You Say So,' which is a very, very, very personal, it's a very personal and it's a very intense song for me, that's one thing."
"If You Say So" takes place seven days after Monteith's death: "It's been seven whole days/ Without your embrace/ I wanna see your face/ I've got something to say/ It was just a week ago/ You said, 'I love you, girl'/ I said, 'I love you more than the breath of us'/ He said, 'If you say so.' "
Perhaps the most emotional point of the record is when she asks "How could you leave me this way?" That's not a tribute — that's anger and hopelessness and the feeling of betrayal. And yeah, like most of the lyrics on this album, they could've just added that line because it rhymed. But if you take it in context, that lyric is heart-wrenching. It takes you away from the news and headlines of Cory's death and into Lea's position, feeling her abandonment right along with her.
However, if you don't scour the songs for Cory references, well, it's just an album about falling in love with metaphorical lyrics and theatrical production. It could be anyone's album, really.
But in the end, it's Michele's album, and it's made that way.