Three years after winning the X Factor, and preceded by her record breaking debut Spirit, Leona Lewis is back with a 13 track album, featuring collaborations with Justin Timberlake and One Republic. The production team captained by Cowell actually had a point of risk with Leona’s second shot, hoping its title, Echo, was not prophetic – Spirit did tick all the boxes, but another handful of emotive ballads was not enough anymore. But sure enough, they indeed hit the target.
Its first single ‘Happy’, a lyrically mature and emotive up-tempo ballad, has an indescribable feel of a classic. It may not be an international pop hit like ‘Bleeding Love’, but it does reach the diva standard, evidence that Leona is here to stay – and the cover shot clinches it too! ‘Outta My Head’ introduces the new range of dance sounds the public were waiting for. A Madonna-like, high-speed electro beat pulls Leona back from her classic cliché, but doesn’t get her all the way: apart from the chorus, it may seem slightly uncomfortably cheap-sounding.
As she magnificently did with Snow Patrol’s ‘Run’, Lewis turns ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ into a brand new impeccable song. The Oasis cover is undoubtly an impressive peak, as the Hackney singer magically transforms the rock spark into a fire of emotion with a (predictable) soulful choir and smashing high notes; in one word, excellent. Also, the ellegant simplicity of ‘I Got You’ or ‘Can’t Breathe’ and the Arabic overtones of ‘Brave’ build a diverse mixed catalogue and represent Lewis’ perfect vocal range.
The conversion of a Pizza Hut waitress into the future Celine Dion is simply a question of innate talent. Leona Lewis is slowly stamping her personal authority in the musical panorama, climbing to the international diva target. Her second album is a definite improovement of Spirit, which is a vast compliment, although its only problem is a lack of ‘quickies’. ‘Echo’ is no doubt a grade A album, just not yet her cum laude graduation.
DATE: 17 November 2009. LABEL: Syco. RATING: * * * *