If there’s one alumni from Glee that is destined for big things, it is undoubtedly Alex Newell. Introduced in the third season as transgender Wade ‘Unique’ Adams, Newell managed to steal almost every scene he appeared in and produced two stunning performances: the heartfelt ‘If I Were A Boy’ by Beyoncé in season five and the show stopping Hairspray track ‘I Know Where I’ve Been’, which is the best Glee track ever.
Newell hasn’t remained idle since his Glee days, however. He was featured on two of the biggest UK tracks of 2015 – Clean Bandit’s ‘Stronger’ and Blonde’s ‘All Cried Out’, both of which were big club anthems. Now he’s back, following these songs up with his debut five-track EP POWER. And what a debut it is!
Below we take a track-by-track look through the bangers.
This Ain’t Over
The opening track ‘This Ain’t Over’ has deep house vibes. It’s sassy and fierce and brimming with emotion. Newell’s powerhouse vocal is raw, and it manages to carry you through to the big drop with the confidence of a professional. This is surprising given that this is only his second solo song.
‘No doubt you wrote me off long ago / But now I won’t give up / This ain’t over,’ Newell almost screeches over the chorus before a break in the music allows for some truly heartfelt deliverance. And then it’s back to the pounding dance track for the final chorus rendition. Ultimately, Newell knows how to make a track. It’s criminal that this song never penetrated the charts, because this would do well in club. You’ll have this one on repeat, that’s for sure.
‘Shame’ is an altogether different sound. Starting slow with a simple twinkling beat, it allows Newell to show off his impeccable vocal before the backing beat revs up ten notches. While there are house vibes here too, they’re much more refined over the verses. But definitely not the chorus – there, the vibes overtake the song and show that it’s destined to be remixed.
This song is haunting. ‘Nothing is real, except the hurting,’ Newell sings, and you can almost feel his pain. Here the sass is gone, replaced by an emotional grounding that makes this a very profound song.
Basically Over You (B.O.Y.)
‘Basically Over You’ has disco vibes that make you feel the sass that Newell is famous for. A big chorus delivered over bigger beats makes this a standout from POWER.
‘Since you wrote me off you ain’t crossed my mind / So I don’t know why you waste your time,’ Newell sings as the beat grows, before adding, ‘I guess you ain’t over me.’ This is a breakup song, but one in which Newell isn’t lamenting his lost love. No. He sings ‘I’m done, have you heard the news? I’m basically over you!’ in what is a big middle finger to his ex. Shut the door when you’re gone, Newell ain’t having none of it!
Devilish (With Digital Ant Farm)
‘Devilish’ is funky and another example of the disco influences of POWER. Newell isn’t afraid to discuss his sexuality here, and he outrightly sings ‘He’s so devilish’ over the chorus. He’s joined a growing trend for LGBT artists to say ‘fuck you, this is who I am.’ In the past, gender neutral pronouns or even pronouns of the opposite sex, were used in place, but Newell has been an out gay man for all of his career. I have to applaud him for this simple word choice.
Though the beat here is the most refined of the five-track EP, Newell’s vocal never shines brighter than on ‘Devilish’. This is the voice many fell in love with on Glee, and it hints at big things in Newell’s musical career.
Nobody To Love
Newell’s first single, released back in 2014, is a dance rendition of Sigma’s ‘Nobody To Love’ that incorporates stuttering beats, disco vibes and gorgeous vocals. If the original never managed to make you dance (seriously, what’s wrong with you?), this version definitely will. Newell here manages to make this song his own; perhaps, the only downfall of this song is that it isn’t his own – I would have preferred another original song.
POWER is a fierce showcase for the powerhouse vocal that has become synonymous with Alex Newell. Exploring house, dance and disco, this is a brief glimpse into what fans can expect to see from Newell’s future work and a strong indicator of what is to come. Newell has a voice that is suited to the genres explored in this EP, a voice that I am sure will be featured on many more up-and-coming DJ’s records. This is only the beginning of Alex Newell.