It’s third time lucky for Leona Lewis as the famous X Factor champion begins to carve a unique and exciting sound to distance herself from the crowd.
For an artist with such potential for worldwide success, it’s shame that Leona Lewis has, as of yet, failed to live up to expectations. Those who were expecting her to be the next Whitney or Mariah have been left sorely disappointed. Of course, Leona has one of the highest selling albums ever in her debut Spirit and her iconic single Bleeding Love was an undoubtable worldwide smash, but since then her music has failed to reach the same dizzy heights of success; a great shame, considering what a phenomenal talent she is. The issue that many have with Lewis is that, despite her undeniable vocal ability, her music often evokes a sense of apathy and impassivity. As such, six years after her triumphant X Factor victory, Leona Lewis needs to create an eye-catching exciting new sound. Luckily for her, it’s a case of third time lucky as she begins to flirt with a distinctive and exciting new musical direction in third album Glassheart.
From the opening bars of lead single, and album opener Trouble, it’s refreshing to hear that there’s a shift in gear from the earliest possible moment. Although Leona still stays safe with a ballad, gone is the conventional style Leona usually adopts, replaced with an early 90′s Massive Attack style beat. As the record gathers momentum, there is a notable change in style from Leona’s previous albums. Here, although tracks such as Lovebird and Stop The Clocks are conventional ballads, exciting production courtesy of Fraser T Smith and Ammo keep these tracks sounding fresh and exciting, as opposed to dull rehashes of earlier efforts. Notable also, is Fireflies, a track so beautifully executed, that by the time the choir kick in in the final chorus, a wondrous wave of sound emerges, transforming a seemingly standard track into a wonderful explosion of sound and musicality. Furthermore to this, the Darkchild-produced Shake You Up is pure, unadulterated pop fun. It’s the most fun we’ve heard Leona sound since her X Factor debut back in 2006. Finally, I To You combines the sound of a classic James Bond theme song and the left-field of production of artists such as Jessie Ware to create a wonderfully vibrant track.
Lewis also has far more artistic control over this record than ever before. Her writing credits feature on eight of the thirteen tracks on the record; a remarkable feat, considering the high quality of the said tracks. Lewis’ experimentation with various different sounds throughout the record should not go unnoticed either. Her forays into Dubstep (Glassheart), 140 BPM plus dance balladry (Come Alive) and 80′s bubblegum pop (Shake You Up) are successful. For critics who often complained that Leona was notorious for sticking within her comfort zone, you can’t say fairer than that to the eclectic mix of sounds on display on Glassheart. Best of all is Favourite Scar; a track that combines Leona’s world-class knack for balladry with a genius hook and some wonderful production courtesy of Ryan Tedder.
Very rarely does Leona slip up, and this is without a doubt the strongest collection of tracks Lewis has recorded to date. Only on the dreary and dull When It Hurts is there a point in which you feel slightly undersold. Indeed, Glassheart is a record full to the brim of potential singles, and despite its many delays, this record sounds like a record suited for 2012. Lewis doesn’t abandon her credentials as a ballad singer, and the balance between making artistic progression whilst maintaining the strengths in Leona’s talent has been struck near perfectly. Leona has crafted a sound to build upon. No longer is she simply a ballad singer; with Glassheart she is a fully fledged pop star. This is not to say that the record is faultless. Indeed, Lewis still has an over reliance on ballads; her brief forays on this record into more fast-paced musical styles prove that she is not unable to pull it off with ease. Furthermore to this, although this is a strong record, it’s been released in a year where the market of female musicians has been unusually strong. What with the phenomenal debuts from artists such as Jessie Ware, Lianne La Havas and Delilah, there is a risk that this collection of tracks may not be remarkable enough to grab the majority of the public’s attention.
However, what is undeniable is the sheer talent of Leona Lewis. Her vocal ability still confirms her to be one of Britain’s most phenomenal musical talents, and her passion for music shines through in every track. What is most important, above all else, is that this record marks a new chapter in the career of Leona Lewis. Every iconic female musician has their renaissance period after a couple of records; Janet Jackson; Kylie Minogue; Mariah – they all underwent massive reinventions in sound and image after an initial bout of success. Glassheart represents the musical awakening and rebirth of Leona Lewis; whether it turns out to be a commercial success remains to be seen. However, this record lays in place firm foundations for Lewis to go even further into the unknown when preparing for her next record, and that, above everything, is an extremely exciting prospect.
A commendable effort.