Lea Michele, "Louder" (Columbia Records)
On some of the songs from her debut album, Lea Michele is convincing. On others, it's like she is acting.
The "Glee" star, known for her big voice, provides the pipes on "Louder," but some songs sound empty and don't show much emotion or personality from the 27-year-old talent.
The dance-flavored title track is typical and forgettable, as is "Don't Let Go." "Empty Handed," co-written by singer Christina Perri, comes off like an unimpressive Coldplay cover, while other songs echo Kelly Clarkson, but lack the energy that Clarkson's learned to build on her songs.
Michele, who has appeared on Broadway in "Spring Awakening" and other shows, gets it right on the piercing "Burn With You," where she sings: "I don't wanna go to heaven if you're going to hell/I will burn with you." She also shines on the slow piano tune "Battlefield," one of four tracks co-written by the exceptional Sia Furler (Rihanna's "Diamonds," Beyonce's "Pretty Hurts"). Instead of yelling, she works her voice nicely on "Thousand Needles," building it up when needed, but hitting softer notes to provide balance.
But, all in all, "Louder" is jagged. The songs don't play well together, and the collection sounds more like a demo, instead of a Golden Globe- and Emmy-nominated singer-actress' debut album. That may be due partially to the group of producers and songwriters, which include Stargate, Benny Blanco, John Shanks, The Messengers, Anne Preven, Christopher Braide and more. While they've produced hits for others, from Clarkson to Rihanna, Michele might have been better off with a tighter and smaller group of collaborators.
Michele closes the album with the ballad "If You Say So," which was inspired by one of the last conversations she had with her "Glee" co-star and boyfriend, Cory Monteith, who died after overdosing on heroin and alcohol last year.
The track is somewhat chilling and worth a listen, but while the rest of "Louder" features a big voice, most of the time Michele isn't saying much.