I've not watched Glee since it's first episode of it's first season years ago. But hey, Darren Criss, Lea Michele and of course, the late Cory Monteith. The question remains: can one of \television's beloved stars make it big with a debut album?
So if you've read the Rolling Stone review of Louder by Lea Michele, let's be honest, the album isn't some jazz, maldisfunctional EDM ruin that comes out blasting with pop affectionate vocals talking about love. On the contrary, the album does support itself well enough to state that it's a good album, but again, that's really all there is. Not entirely sophisticated nor having the traditional songs that kind of surround the likes of Katy Perry or Demi Lovato, Lea's new album does take some of her songs in a different direction and in a balanced way. Not amazing, not dire but just well fenced.
However, that's half a mistake considering the album is very safe on the topics. While (obviously) the album is orbiting around the main subject of love and mainly of the death of her boyfriend, the lyrics are very straight to the point and doesn't necessarily dwell on it nor beat around the bush. Some songs such as Burn With You and Thousand Needles portray the sounds that Lea herself is singing about, and there's no other way to it as well. With that saying, it isn't necessarily a bad thing considering the album does have great writing on many occasions.
Spear-headed (mainly) from Sia's writing on some tracks, such as Cannonball, the lead single, the song itself connects lyrically. But I've always had a problem with the lead single, with it being that it felt too much for Lea. As everyone knows from Sia's vocal range, the song is going to be high octave with growing vocals. When it came to Lea, it felt strange during the chorus that didn't necessarily fit with the song entirely. I could be nitpicking, but the song just didn't work and it became easily forgotten for me. However, the other songs of the album eventually shined through a small crevice that made the album emotionally toned, and it's probably a good reason why the album is impressive wholesale and not just track-by-track.
Take and give, Lea's vocals are not impressive, not by a long stretch. But what she does on the upscale, is that she provides the emotional undertone that most pop stars don't usually express from or have a hard time doing so. One of the songs in particular includes Katy Perry's 'almost-made-it-to-emotional' track Unconditionally. Coupled with simply bad songwriting, Perry's version just simplifies Prism to make it seem exotic and free. However, Louder is camp free. In camp free, I mean that it's much less exaggerated and just flows with the track rather than succumb to it on a level that precedes that of Prism or the likes of other mainstream female pop albums. This makes the album much better on a large scale, and some tracks boost it greatly.
On My Way, Battlefield, Don't Let Go and the co-written song with Sia If You Say So takes the album to a different level, and that's one of the reasons why the album is simply great. Yes, it does feel as though Lea 'over-sings' on some occasions (Cannonball, Burn With You, You're Mine), apart from that, her vocals aren't that bad, considering Glee has definitely solidified it greatly. Once you get used to the vocals, which is kind of similar of that Demi's, you'll find yourself strapped in and ready to go.
Favourite Tracks: On My Way, Battlefield, If You Say So, Don't Let Go
Least Favourite Tracks: Cannonball, Thousand Needles, Empty Handed
The album deserves a score better than the albums that were delivered by other mainstream pop female vocalists considering Lea's talents, which is mostly seen on television. I would recommend the album, but the album's definitely going to get slapped with criticism for sure. But hey, opinions are opinions, so just let it slide. If you enjoy it, good for you.
Quick question: name a band that's had their first debut single reach the top 5 in the Billboard Hot 100, who has a lesser known reputation and their new debut album is going to smash the Billboard 200. Did you guess A Great Big World? Well they do fit the first three criteria, but the last part does seem to put them off the steering wheel a little bit. Bolstered by the hugely popular international single, Say Something featuring Christina Aguilera, there's no way this album can fail right? Well...
A Great Big World comprises of the duo that is Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino, with Axel being the lead singer (more or less considering what he's done for the album) and is also the pianist while Chad (and mainly both) are/is the songwriters of the album. Is There Anybody Out There is also the duo's debut album and to call it 'immediate amazing' because of one hugely successful single does off-put what the duo's potential really is. There's many, many problems that is stuck to the core of what the album is really. And many of the problems are already in hindsight of their single with Xtina, Say Something.
Firstly, Ian Axel's vocals are a large part of the problem, but it doesn't complete the full circle of what is to come. Sure, it is powerful (which can be heard on Say Something and Rockstar), but sometimes it does feel awkwardly plain, too direct and just unfitting. Along the album, Chad's vocals, although is not heard throughout as poignant as Ian's, does seem to shine through more than his partner. That seems to me as a much better option considering Ian is the pianist and both are equally talented songwriters (will get to that point). But Ian's vocals, to be flat out honest, is just not good enough.
Secondly, while the piano is mainly the core instrument on the album, the production is just incredibly wasted on this album. That's why one of my favourite tracks, Shorty Don't Wait, just shows how emphatically promising A Great Big World can be. It's just a fantastic discovery that is lined up along the likes of Land Of Opportunity, Already Home and I Really Want It that feels like filler songs, experimentation tracks that doesn't mean anything to the record on a whole. While I do know they want to make the album fun and exciting, on a whole, it doesn't make a point as one who is trying to sell the album. Hell, I don't even know if I should laugh or just remain calm to Cheer Up!'s lyrics. The album just doesn't know of it's direction and just sails in another completely, just out of notion.
Thirdly, comes the topics that the album addresses, such as Everyone Is Gay: 'If you're gay, then you're gay; don't pretend that you're straight' and so much interpolations on You'll Be Okay, I Really Want It and There Is An Answer. You may think I am nitpicking, but maybe the inspirations of the duo seems waned and faded, sometimes just crafting cheap lyrics at it's finest and just storing them in when they know their strongest has already peaked. This makes the songs tired, outdated, of what is a generic flash in the pan statement.
But, as always, not all of the lyrics are as bad as they suggest. In fact, at this moment, lyrics are what's the best for the duo when it comes to their technique. I Don't Wanna Love Somebody Else, Rockstar and of course, Say Something all show perfect qualities of the duo's strengths in crafting momentum based lyrics that builds up to this incredible peak during the choruses, as shown in their lead single. But as profound as they may be, the weak links of the album just seems to come out on top every single time.
Favourite Tracks: I Don't Wanna Love Somebody Else, Shorty Don't Wait
Least Favourite Tracks: Cheer Up!, Everyone Is Gay, This Is The New Year
Is There Anybody Out There is just a terrible mess, incomplete and downright mediocre. The album just shadows itself in a complete treble of mess and just states nothing but future potential vanished in thin wake. A Great Big World has to know that they've got good potential, but this is good potential squandered at it's very best. I wouldn't recommend the album, but if you wanna' check out the hype behind Say Something (or forward), then I say just listen to the two tracks I've listed as my favourites because, well, you'll know why.
Well it's been a long time since I've been induced strongly to a new album, and The Fray's new album titled Helios certainly looks impressive on paper at least. However, after coming off 2012's Scars and Stories, certainly they look to amend themselves to their previous work. But will Helios change their fortunes?
You can call The Fray a rock band, but I'd rather place them in the alternative rock genre due to their surprising hits back in the past with Never Say Never, How to Save A Life, and mainly their first two albums that pretty much skyrocketed them to fame. I don't care what people say, but Scars and Stories was a downright disappointment from the get-go. The album never had a defining track, suffered from the promotion of singles and the band itself didn't even feel whole-hearted in that project, making it a mess with only a small amount of tracks that managed to 'rescue' the album from being a total disaster. I also want to note that Scars and Stories also felt contained, and didn't have the uplifting melodies that were present back in the first two albums, which I felt was really core of what The Fray was with Isaac Slade leading the charge with his powerful vocals.
And yet, the first song off Helios, titled Hold My Hand just feels like a quality marred track, with an unbalanced tone and doesn't appeal at all. It just felt like the wormhole was back to swallow the album back to their previous two albums. But a change of form was necessary, and duly delivered in the form of Love Don't Die and Give It Away. It's true, that the songs don't really have the emotional vibe that was present in How To Save A Life, which was probably why this album was more of a dramatic, anthemic album than their predecessor albums. With hard-pounding drums in the second track and a guitar-core track in the second, the tracks are bound to get you moving up about your seat. In both tracks, Slade's vocals are tantalizingly amazing, stretching at the chorus and just soothing.
In fact, the album itself does revolve around the 'get up' drums with the occasional guitar riffs that tingles the audience to move, along with Slade's vocals for the ride. And that might not be a bad thing after all, considering their lackluster albums before, Helios' vibe is a great welcome for fans alike, though that may just be personal opinion. The album does also contain shades of their first album with tracks like Keep On Wanting, Closer To Me and Our Last Days which kind of feels similar to the 1-2-3 punch that was Heaven Forbid, Look After You and Hundred on their debut album back in 2005. There is also Break Your Plans which adds to the list as having a similar vibe of an emotional tone.
But Wherever This Goes is where the album picks up once again back from Hurricane, which is an amazing track that kind of belongs together with Love Don't Die and Give It Away. Still though, the track itself preserves the previous track's emotional tones and carries on until the end of the album. The album's closer, Same As You, is probably the culmination of the entire album. It is solid, it has the effective drums, along with an ever-growing melody that, well, kind of just ends sadly. I wished the song was more in depth, and had the characteristics of some of the other emotional tracks on the album, but from what I've heard so far, it is solid and the album justifies itself.
Favourite Tracks: Love Don't Die, Give It Away, Hurricane
Least Favourite Tracks: Hold My Hand
All in all, it's a good album but the band really does seem to be experimenting with newer melodies rather than bringing their music back to it's roots. It's technically good, apart from some minor touches that needed to be added or amended, I would recommend it to other listeners. It's the same case for most other rock albums though: the first half of the album was great, while the second half just barely makes it unscathed.
Benny Ong: Just your regular guy who likes soccer more than most people, and also a little downtime is pretty nice.