For better or worse, Leona Lewis has long been considered the personification of a sweet lullaby with her sugary tone and belts packed with as much force as a powderpuff. However, by the grace of Simon Cowell’s creative insight, the songbird has finally taken flight and is ready to the world her true potential via her new album, ‘Glassheart’.
Lewis ups the tempo and unleashes full-throated vocals on ‘Glassheart’ as she reminds people that she is one of the most talented singers in the industry today. Yet, the best facet of the record is her clear attempt to distance herself from her previous works, ‘Spirit’ and ‘Echo’, and comparisons to her idol, Mariah Carey.
With the help of producers Fraser T. Smith, Al Shux and DJ Frank E, Lewis emerges as a bold Dance diva on ‘Glassheart’. However, don’t compare her music to the uninspired fodder of her fellow ‘The X Factor (UK)’ alum Alexandra Burke because Lewis’ brand of club-ready tracks are progressive instead of reactive to the current trends on Top 40/Mainstream radio.
Songs such as the bass-heavy ‘Glassheart’ title track depict Lewis as a master vocalist who keeps her voice as a main focus, despite being surrounded by a mix of keys, soaring synths and thumping beats. Even on the Electro ‘Come Alive’, Lewis pushes her vocals above the dramatic production as she soars through the octaves and showcases her impressive range.
Still, both ‘Glassheart’ and ‘Come Alive’ fall flat in comparison to the bonus track ‘Sugar’, which is actually the strongest cut on the entire album. Co-written by Emeli Sande, who clearly based the song on her own ‘Heaven’ hit single, the heart-racing ‘Sugar’ is an extravaganza of rhythm as Lewis’ throaty vibrato rings clearly in the song that builds to an absolutely explosive climax.
However, when the strobe lights are switched off and Lewis resumes her role as a balladeer, the one glaring flaw of the ‘Glassheart’ album is revealed. As a vocalist, Lewis stands with the select few performers of her generation who can actually sing, but her music is still more technically impressive than emotionally expressive.
“…if ‘Favourite Scar’ is a true example of Lewis’ love life then it must be dreadfully one dimensional.”
This is exemplified on ‘Favourite Scar’ where Lewis croons about her a passionate relationship but sounds as believable as Beyonce boasting about her skills as a songwriter. Yes, it is a pleasant change to hear Lewis singing in a lower register of her voice without experiencing her often awkward nasality, but if ‘Favourite Scar’ is a true example of her love life then it must be dreadfully one dimensional. You know, casual walks in the park, promise rings and the only physical contact is holding hands on a Friday when her parents aren’t at home.
‘Stop the Clocks’ and ‘Fingerprint’ are other examples of vocal gymnastics without real conviction. No matter how loud Lewis belts or how many well-executed runs she performs, she simply flips, tumbles and prances around the vocal arena without ever landing on a spot of true emotion.
Luckily, Sande returns to save the day with the gritty ‘I to You’. Kicked off by an intro that is strikingly similar to Alicia Keys’ ‘Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart’, ‘I to You’ is so dark and passionate that even the melodrama of Lewis’ singing can’t completely soften its emotional blow.
‘Colorblind’, however, is rare emotional moment on ‘Glassheart’ and Lewis cleverly sings the song in the form of a climbing crescendo. Exhibiting just the right amount of restraint, this is the type of ballad that demonstrates what she can do when she focuses on bringing the lyrics to life instead of just flaunting her skills as a vocalist.
Perhaps, the only real comparisons between Lewis and Carey can be heard on the mid-tempo ‘When it Hurts’ and ‘Fireflies’. On the former track, Lewis toys with an unexpected staccato approach to singing the verses and florid transitions into her colourful falsetto in a way that would make even the elder diva pay attention.
‘Fireflies’, on the other hand, sounds nothing like the music of Carey until the final sixty seconds when Lewis cues the Lips Choir and a bout of belts at the very top of her range. Indeed, for a split second, it is easy to imagine Carey singing this song in her giant ballerina dress while waving her magic fingers to summon a cloud of butterfly-shaped confetti.
Rounding out the ‘Glassheart’ album are the Darkchild-produced ‘Shake You Up’ – I barely finished typing that song title without breaking into spontaneous hip-shaking – and ‘Lovebird’. Both tunes are definite frontrunners to be future singles, especially in the US where Lewis has not scored a Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit since ‘Bleeding Love’.
In the end, ‘Glassheart’ is an impressive effort by Lewis as she finally begins her journey toward defining herself as an artist. Despite a few shortcomings, the record is a step in the right direction; away from being the shy girl who won ‘The X Factor (UK)’ competition and closer to becoming a true diva for the current generation of Pop music fans.
Standout tracks: ‘Sugar’, ‘Glassheart’, ‘Shake You Up’, ‘When it Hurts’and ‘I to You’
Weakest track: ‘Favourite Scar’
Possible singles: ‘Lovebird’, ‘Glassheart, ‘Sugar’, ‘Shake You Up’, ‘When it Hurts’ and ‘I to You’
The Lava Lizard Rating: 3.5/5 Stars