Having a No. 1 album on the Billboard charts isn’t quite the impressive feat that it used to be. Given the abysmal black hole that album sales numbers have become, managing a debut in the No. 1 position is pretty much a guarantee for any high-profile mainstream artist. Having said that, entering the Top 10 happens to pretty much everybody.
Rachel Berry’s Lea Michele’s debut album Louder is projected to debut in the top 10 Billboard Charts this upcoming week with only 50,000 to 60,000 units sold. Evidently, that means that 0.0175 percent of the American population purchased her album, and now she has managed to break the Top 10. So here’s why I’m giving you a lesson in record sales: clearly the measure of a successful album has to be based on something other than units sold, because the music listening public is not heading out in droves to purchase music anymore. And if this is true, how will Lea Michele ever know if her debut album was successful?
I’ve always had somewhat of a soft spot for Lea Michele, which was only magnified when Cory Monteith passed away earlier last year. Although she’s been thoroughly annoying in Glee‘s run, she was touching and fantastic singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” in the pilot episode, and just when you thought she was a goody-goody she surprised everyone when she posed in GQ with fellow castmates Monteith and Dianna Agron. It’s not surprising that she wanted to dip into the pop world by releasing her own solo album. But with fellow castmates also releasing solo pop albums (see: Matthew Morrison, Mark Salling, and Darren Criss) with about as much traction gained as the last Paris Hilton album, things don’t look too good for Lea. In fact, it almost seems as if it’s part of their Fox contract to release solo records as almost everyone who’s even had a guest spot on Glee has an album coming out at some point or another. And unfortunately, upon first few listens, it seems as if the sinking to the bottom of the popular music ocean Louder will go right alongside her other castmates’ solo records.
“Cannonball”, the lead single and first track on the album, plays just like a tune that would be featured on Glee. Written by Sia and “given” to Michele after her “deep” connection to the lyrics (she didn’t write them) and how they spoke to her after Monteith’s death, “Cannonball” is exactly what you’re in for during the course of the 40 or so minutes of Louder. It’s a power-pop ballad in which Lea’s albeit impressive but oftentimes too-perfect and too-loud vocals are front and center. Starting with her singing “Breakdown”, the song escalates back and forth where she makes some type of analogy to being a Cannonball or something and how she’s going to fly like one. The irony of how cannonballs come crashing down and explode upon impact seems to be completely lost on both Sia and Lea.
As the album continues with tracks like “On My Way”, “Burn with You”, and “Battlefield”, it becomes increasingly clear that there is nothing earth-shatteringly brilliant, new, or innovative about this record. The only thing it contributes to the already saturated mainstream music market is Michele herself, and with tunes like these, is she really necessary? Moreover, her most impressive aspect, her voice, is also autocorrected in some very noticeable places throughout the record. So, what or who precisely is this record serving?
I’ll tell you: it’s for those guilty-pleasure-seeking, surface-level listeners who enjoy a sugary sweet pop tune great for singing along to in the car or alone in their bedroom, who identify with these impersonal lyrics that somehow manage to bridge the divide and be personal for them. I’m guilty for about half of the above. Like a showtune from Wicked, Louder serves as an above average power-pop album that you can bust a lung trying to sing along to without any of that pesky “thinking” to get in the way. It’s unfortunate because Lea is very likable, but you can’t help but think that in five years she’ll go the way of Lisa Marie Presley, a novelty that is interesting enough to have a gander at, but ultimately not captivating enough to prolong a worthwhile pop music career.