Just as Miley Cyrus shed her TV identity as Hannah Montana, so too should Lea Michele ditch her role as the neurotic but talented Rachel Berry on the hit TV-show Glee.
As the series wraps up with its sixth and final season, it is evident that Michele is headed on to a bright future.
Though setback and distraught by the recent death of her boyfriend Cory Monteith, she’s taken its anguish and devastation and turned it into something positive with her upcoming song “If You Say So,” written in his memory.
Even as a child, Michele has been in the professional spotlight, appearing in Broadway productions such as Les Misérables, Ragtime, and Fiddler on the Roof. Her bold, projecting voice is no recent development; she’s been cultivating it since the 90’s.
In a world where the public persistently pressures singers to cave into the conventional model of beauty, Michele is not one to give in. Back in high school, when everyone who wanted to make it big was getting nose jobs, she refused, wanting to stay true to herself.
She’s earned such high praise for both her acting skills and her singing abilities. The audience and fans come for Rachel Berry but stay for Lea Michele’s incredible voice.
On Glee, she was known as the star of the Glee club, frequently singing solos, always at the front of the stage. Her character dreams of making it to New York and performing on Broadway, which Berry eventually does, attending college at NYADA and landing the role of Fanny on Funny Girl.
A perfect role model for young girl everywhere, Michele’s personality enriches her appeal as a singer/song-writer.
What makes Rachel Berry (and subsequently Lea Michele) stand out is her voice; it is as pure as a lily, strong as an oak, and it is extremely accommodating. She can hit a very wide range of notes; her voice sounds like it was made for Broadway. Whether she’s singing a slow ballad or pop song, she can adjust her voice to embody any picture-perfect personality.
In contrast, while other artists may learn fancy dance moves, ignite fireworks on stage, or have other tricks to woo the audience, Michele seems to be just herself. When it comes to live performances, she stays true to the essence of music performance and focuses on her voice.
A solo recording artist for Columbia Records, she’s been working on her debut album, Louder. To give the public a sense of what’s coming, she’s released “Cannonball,” her first single.
The song is not intended to be about love, but rather about moving on and throwing oneself out into the world after a period of fear, suffering, and pain. Whether or not the hardship is about Monteith’s passing is unclear, but its all-encompassing lyrics make it perfect for new listeners, who look for relatable and inspiring lyrics.
That she chose to release this song first foreshadows that many of her other songs will not just be her looking over her shoulder into her past life, but rather her anticipating the future with excitement.
The catchy pop beat captures the listener’s attention, and with fervor, she sings, “Now I will start living today, today, today I close the door. I’ve got this new beginning and I will fly, I’ll fly like a cannonball.”
The music video also seems to emulate this notion of moving on and starting anew. Michele shivers in a black dress, cold and alone in a dark room, mourning the past. Slowly, light filters in and the room becomes alive as the dust swirls around her.
She makes her way through hanging fluorescent purple lights, starting to smile more widely as she sings passionately. The music video ends with her in a bright white dress, the room flooded with rainbow lights.
The song and the music video don’t seem to stand out from other similar songs, until you consider the context in which it was written.
Soon after “Cannonball,” she released “Battlefield,” which, in contrast to her first single, tugged on our heart strings. A slow song, similar to those we are used to hearing her sing on Glee, she showcases her voice by allowing just a lone piano playing in the background.
It’s impossible to decipher who the song is about – perhaps Monteith? The lyrics paint a picture about rejection and hardship in love, as opposed to its destruction by something such as death.
“Does illusion count for something we hide?” She sings passionately, portraying the failing relationship as going nowhere.
“Feelings are shifting like the tide, and I think too much about the future” illustrates an expiration-date love; her voice swells like a wave, revealing metaphors about the inherent unsustainability of this relationship.
So why did Michele choose Louder as her album title? Artists typically choose their album titles to send a central message, the core of the album.
“Louder” begins with her breathy voice, balanced with steady tinges of emotion, and augmented with a strong, thumping bass in the background. This song is the heart of the album, perhaps because it’s trying to convey her introduction into the music industry with a bang.
While the lyrics become a tad repetitive, the song culminates with the lyrics “I just wanna hear your voice,” urging the listener to get up and freak-dance.
While this song is surely no slow, romantic ballad, it seems like everyone has been experimenting with electronic music lately; Lea Michele is no exception. The electro-pop fading in and out in the background practically begs for this song to be remixed for dance clubs mixes and the like.
With Glee providing her with a strong foundation, Michele has been discovered and thrown into the mainstream news media, and everyone is eagerly awaiting her next move as an artist.
Louder comes out in the United States on March 4th.