Six years after her performance on the X Factor, Leona Lewis returns this week with her highly anticipated third studio album, Glassheart, the follow up to 2009’s Echo.
Lewis first won the world over with her debut record Spirit. The singer, a shy receptionist from the North London suburb of Islington, found herself as the voice of the X Factor, stealing the crown from past winner Will Young thanks to her booming vocals and flawless song renditions.
Though most X Factor winners seem to disappear into the depths of obscurity within months of winning the popular TV talent contest, often being abandoned by the once supportive arms of head judge Simon Cowell or failing to release anything with any substance, consistency or credibility, Series 3 winner Leona Lewis’ path seems to have taken a different route entirely.
Everyone fell in love with the timid singer with a big voice as we tuned in to watch her knock the rest of the competition out of the water week after week. Lewis released her debut record Spirit shortly after her big win on the show in 2006 and her first single, the Ryan Tedder written ballad Bleeding Love, pocketed Lewis with her second number one single following her time on the show. The track went on to find its place in the top spot in 34 countries around the world and also helped the singers album skyrocket to the top of the charts becoming the 4th biggest selling album of the 2000’s. Following the huge success of Bleeding Love, Lewis continued to break new ground as the decades biggest UK success story with a string of hit singles including Better In Time, Forgive Me and a stunning cover of the Snow Patrol hit, Run.
2009 saw the release of Echo, her sophomore effort, and although the record didn’t meet the same chart and sales success as Spirit it managed to keep the Leona Lewis star burning bright.
Glassheart, just like Echo, has a lot of expectations riding on it. Having been spoiled with such a monumental debut the singer must feel the pressure to release albums with the same global appeal and to replicate the same chart success as her debut. Upon first listen to the record we are fairly positive Lewis has another winner on her hands here.
Lead single Trouble opens the Lewis doors once again with a track that showcases the stars exquisite vocals and ability to tear through balladry like so few stars these days. With its delicate piano opening and the songs confessional chorus the track has the Leona Lewis stamp all over it. It’s no Bleeding Love but it is a fantastic track that Lewis uses to welcome in the new record.
Poetic and heartbreaking would sum up Un Love Me which boasts a simple instrumentation allowing Lewis’ vocals to rain over the number as she pours her heart out the chorus lyrics – “I’m begging you to un love me, cause I can’t un love you” and offers some of the most engaging vocals heard on any Leona Lewis recording, easily taking the ‘best track on the album’ award on Glassheart while the following Lovebird offers a mid-tempo track with numerous impressive vocal peaks that, vocally, display Lewis as the reigning princess of pop.
Further into the track listing Fireflies provides us with the records syrupy centre. Its sweet piano melody ushers in a gorgeous string section before it lifts off into a bustling, epic hit while maintaining its melodic piano backbone. The closing choir sung chorus compliments Lewis’ faultless and pristine vocals on the track.
Though the majority of Glassheart has been surrendered to balladry there is a couple of up-tempo numbers scattered within the track listing to break up the monotony. Nearing the end of the record is Shake You Up which begins with Leona requesting “can you turn the music up a little bit please’ in her polite, accented spoken word. The track is a bit of a dipping point on Glassheart with its cheesy instrumentation, giving the number more of a tacky eighties than retro cool feel to it. ‘Come Alive’, which sits in the opening half of Glassheart, is an up-tempo pop nugget which aches for a club-floor remix treatment and while the vocals maintain the singers signature balladic tones the production of the track unleashes a dance-floor diva in Lewis with its grinding bass-lines and spiraling effects that fan out within the track.
Though Glassheart doesn’t attempt to reinvent the Bleeding Love hit maker in terms of style, it comes with a naturally matured sound to it when compared to her previous albums and without sounding calculated. Darker in parts and more vocally challenging, Leona sounds like an artist pushing herself musically as well as vocally on this new collection of songs and that combined with a dozen memorable pop numbers make Glassheart a fantastic listen.
::: RenownedForSound.com’s Editor and Founder –
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