There’s nothing wrong with Lea Michele’s debut, and that’s its biggest problem. While well curated and exquisitely executed, Louder is missing the visceral oomph that defines the gulf between superstars and the rest of the Top 40 chum.
Louder consciously eschews the campy mania of Michele’s many covers on Glee, but in doing so it jettisons most of the abandon that is supposed to make pop music fun. Even when she lets ”loose,” as on the thumping title track, her would-be call to dance-floor arms feels like bad acting.
Michele’s stiltedness also undercuts the otherwise sharp collection of melodic weapons forged by her songwriters: Sia Furler (she of Rihanna’s ”Diamonds” and Beyoncé’s ”Pretty Hurts”) delivers the cathartic first single, ”Cannonball,” and Anne Preven (co-writer of Natalie Imbruglia’s timeless ”Torn”) adds pretty pathos to ”Cue the Rain.” But Michele’s voice is so studied it ends up being sterile — pushing Furler’s breezy ”You’re Mine” into a Broadway audition song and overselling the drama on the chest-pounding ”Burn With You.” Her personality also remains mysterious; the only revealing moment is the tender Cory Monteith tribute ”If You Say So,” which exposes the raw nerves beneath Michele’s scrubbed professional skin.
It’s hard to be that mad at Louder, because it’s so admirably and lovingly crafted. But pop doesn’t have to be good for you, and Louder is like ordering a radio-friendly milk shake and getting a kale smoothie. B-