Leona Lewis has really been living the dream since winning the X Factor in 2006. The shy Hackney girl, who had in fact trained at the prestigious Brit School (which has also produced Amy Winehouse, Adele, Polly Scattergood, Imogen Heap – to name but a few!), won over the public’s heart with her Mariah-style belting. In fact, the former receptionist had tried her luck with music before the X Factor, but her single failed to get released and Lewis had to carry on with dreams. X Factor changed all that instantly. Her cover of “A Moment Like This” was a surefire Christmas Number 1, but her album Spirit was not released in the normal reality TV rush. Having learnt his lesson from past reality winner flops, Simon Cowell took his time over Lewis’ debut. When released, Spirit, with its mid 90s inspired saccharine ballad pop soared. Lewis went from being a quiet Hackney wannabe to a global sensation – even managing to crack the US market. Again, unwilling to rush a release, Lewis’ second album Echo sees the light of day two years after her debut. The pressure is now on, no longer just a reality TV competition winner, Lewis has to deliver to a global market. The question is, will she Echo her previous triumph or will her career follow the paths of all the other ex-talent show winners to the bargain bin?
Echo is far from groundbreaking, however it never set out to be. A winning formula was found on Spirit and Lewis’ team are sticking to it firmly. Lead single “Happy” is an uninspired radio friendly ballad that plays it too safe in order to guarantee a radio hit. Echo, which sees Lewis teaming up with guaranteed hit makers Ne-Yo, John Shanks, Max Martin, Xenomania and Ryan Tedder, falls consistently into that safe bracket.
Lewis boasts an undeniably strong vocal. When the hit makers strike gold, as they did with “Bleeding Love” and “Footprints In The Sand”, Lewis is unstoppable. To begin with, Echo verges too close to the bland to allow Lewis’ weapon to shoot you in the heart. “Outta My Head” fails comically to diversify Lewis’ sound. There are moments that make even the coldest heart melt. “My Hands” attunes itself to Lewis’ powerful pelt perfectly and would provide a guaranteed number 1. It also provides the album’s turning point, Lewis suddenly finds her balladeering stride and the remaining tracks could all be potential chart hits – including a surprising cover of Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, which she has turned into a scintillating showstopper.
Lewis boasts an undeniably strong vocal.
Interestingly, Lewis has not taken a backseat on the songwriting for Echo. The former Brit school student has taken a hands on approach, with credits on six of the album’s thirteen tracks. Lewis has also had a helping hand on the production side, which adds credibility to her attempts to make it as a global superstar. Lewis is aware of her strengths as an artists and provides some of the albums highlights, notably her Onerepublic duet “Lost Then Found”, which Simon Cowell would no doubt label ‘current’. Saving the best till last, the album’s untitled hidden track blows the socks off the rest of Echo. A subtle, ballad that doesn’t suffer from overblown production allowing Leona’s vocal to really shine, it should have set the tone for the whole album rather than been shut away to be heard by only those who don’t press stop as the album closes.
Echo doesn’t move far from the Spirit, but after the phenomenal success this is not much of a surprise. Lewis has a rich vocal which is not always used to its full potential. Lewis is not attempting credibility, she knows her market and is not moving far from it to ensure continued success. Having struggled to find her feet post Brit School, Lewis is finally the living the dream and Echo does enough to ensure that she won’t wake up from her sleep for a while.