Album Review: Leona Lewis – I Am

Leona Lewis I Am cover

Leona Lewis is an independent woman on I Am
It all started so promising for Leona Lewis in 2007. After her win in the British X Factor she quickly conquered the world with her huge debut single ‘Bleeding Love’. It was number 1 everywhere and she managed to score a few other international hits, like ‘Better In Time’, ‘Run’ and ‘Happy’. After that, she faded just as quickly as she appeared. In the UK she managed to stay successful a little longer, but when her third album Glassheart didn’t match the expected charts results it became clear things needed to change. After a successful Christmas single and album, Lewis parted ways with Simon Cowell’s label Syco and signed with Island Records for a fresh start. The album I Am is the first result.

Lewis returned in May with the new single ‘Fire Under My Feet’, which sounded more uptempo and kind of refreshing, but it didn’t set the charts on fire at all. She tried again in July with the release of ‘Thunder’ and ‘I Am’, which both are strong pop tracks with clear messages about independence and starting over, but again there was not much buzz around the releases and they passed by without radio support. I am afraid that the problem with these tracks, and the rest of the album for that matter, is that it just doesn’t stand out enough. Of course her voice still sounds wonderful and the songs are far from bad, but it’s all just coloured within the lines in a beige shade.

The thing is, when you change labels, because you want to follow your own path, people will expect a game changing album when you get the chance, not a nice compilation of middle of the road songs. A track like ‘Ladder’ is a servicable pop tune with a nicely built chorus, but it does not set Leona apart from the other pop girls out there in any way. The same goes for ‘The Essence of Me’ and ‘Power’ and basically every track on the record. Again, these are not bad songs in any way, but the frustrating part of this all is that Leona’s gorgeous vocals just deserve more exciting material to work with.

How to move forward in her career after the release of this album? To make it a success, in my eyes Leona and her team have two options for a single release. The first one is ‘Another Love Song’ that sounds current and swings a bit. The production is fresh and could work well on British radio. Then, by the time Christmas comes closer, she could release the ballad ‘You Knew Me When’, written by Diane Warren, and hope for an opportunity to perform at the X Factor UK. Warren penned ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’ did wonders for Paloma Faith’s career, and although ‘You Knew Me When’ is not as touching, it is still a beautiful ballad in a classical way. For the next phase, Leona has to remember that just her vocals and some nice pop tunes aren’t enough anymore. She needs some truly hit worthy or out of the box material to get back on track. She did it before and we know she could do it again and we all need that voice back on top.

Must listen: Another Love Song, You Knew Me When, I Am, Thunder, Thank You

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