One to Watch: Alex Newell

Latest posts by Barry Quinn (see all)

Image by Greg Hernandez from California, CA, USA (IMG_0391) [CC BY 2.0 ], via Wikimedia Commons

Glee sadly ended last week, but you can expect its cast to move onto bigger and better (?) things in no time at all.

Lea Michele already has an album out, and has been cast in Ryan Murphy’s upcoming Scream Queens.

Dianna Agron has a string of movies out this year.

Melissa Benoist will play the titular role in Supergirl.

And Darren Criss will take a lead role in Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch.

One surely meteoric rise I am personally looking forward to is that of Alex Newell. Not only can he act (and boy, can he act! Just look at his tender performance during his rendition of ‘Is I Were A Boy’ below) but he has a stunning voice to boot. It’s his distinctive warbling falsetto that makes me excited for what the future holds. I can tell already that this isn’t the last we’ve heard of Alex Newell.

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I’ve picked a handful of Alex’s tracks to showcase just how impressive he is. He is currently signed to Atlantic Records and Deep Well Records, and is working on his debut album.

If I Were A Boy

This performance was Alex’s best in Glee – that is until his stunning season six solo, but we’ll get to that in a moment. A tender, sensitive vocal compliments the raw emotion of Alex’s character of Wade ‘Unique’ Adams. If you’ve followed Glee, and you know the struggles that Unique went through due to her gender identity, this performance will surely blow you away. If you didn’t watch Glee, well, it’ll blow you away anyway.

Beyoncé is, of course, an icon, and yet Newell here takes her song and makes it entirely his own. This track is captivating in every sense of the word. Alex is able to capture every note perfectly and even now I get chills on those high notes.

https://youtu.be/D2AL8zsGy_8

Show Me Love (with Matvey Emerson)

If you’re a regular reader of Vada , you’ll know that I simply love house. So Alex Newell and house is my perfect kind of mix.

‘Show Me Love’ by Robin S. (the Laidback Luke and Steve Angello mix) is a track that is instantly recognisable, and one which had been covered countless times before. The original is a classic in its own right, and yet here Newell has once more taken something revered and made a worthy cover. This is perhaps better than the original.

The beat is simplistic house with deep thumps, which perfectly showcases the crowning glory of this collaboration: Alex’s beautiful voice. It’s gruff in the chorus and high and floaty in the verses with not a note out of place. Hopefully Newell’s debut album will have more sounds like this.

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All Cried Out (with Blonde)

Blonde are slowly dominating the airwaves and their newest track features Alex. Deep house beats and clanging percussion compliment Alex’s tones to create a sweeping track. It’s addictive and it’ll have you singing along in no time at all.

I’ve had this one on repeat for weeks.

Stronger (with Clean Bandit & Sean Bass)

Clean Bandit surely need no introduction. They’ve re-recorded their newest single to incorporate vocals from Sean Bass and Alex (the original, with Olly Alexander from Years & Years, is worth a listen too). Sean dominates the verses but when the beat drops across the chorus, Alex’s recognisable screech over ‘stronger’ makes this a standout track off the quartet’s brilliant debut.

Alex warbles and harmonises throughout the track, helping to rev up the dance elements but for me, Alex isn’t featured enough. He would have owned this track.

I Know Where I’ve Been

THIS is Alex’s crowning glory. His performance in the final season of Glee produced Glee’s greatest ever cover. It has elements of soul layered over harmonising produced by a 200-strong trans choir, and once more the lyrics and performance hit deep owing to the trans issues of the episode.

You can tell, just from listening, that Alex loves this song and its message. The closing of this performance is truly spine-tingling: first Alex produces a drawn-out, deep note as he sings ‘Lord knows, I know where I’ve been’, which in itself is impressive, but the final note completely outshadows it. Alex bellows it, owning both the stage and the song. It’s impressive alright. I hope Alex covers this track for his debut.

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https://youtu.be/tEaBHdNvoTU

Alex also performed this song at the 26th Annual GLAAD awards earlier this month and totally brought down the house. The standing ovation is entirely just: it was simply Alex and a microphone.