Leona Lewis

Echo

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AllMusic Review by

The goal of Leona Lewis' 2007 debut, Spirit, was to prove that an X Factor winner could be a phenomenon not just in the U.K., but in the rest of the world. The goal of her second album, 2009's Echo, is to prove that success was no fluke, to build upon "Bleeding Love" and turn Lewis into an actual diva. Certainly, Echo in any of its incarnations -- its song listings are tailored for individual markets, with the U.K. getting a cover of Oasis' "Stop Crying Your Heart Out," while the U.S. gets a second song co-written by Justin Timberlake -- uses the chilly, synthesized "Bleeding Love" as its foundation, creating a sheet of sound equal parts Euro-pop and modern American R&B. As opposed to the often-stuffy Spirit, this is proudly modern, and if the sounds emanating from the two sides of the Atlantic might seem to be aesthetically opposed, they're both producer-driven music constructed layer by layer from rhythm to the vocal, where the overall sound matters more than what's being sung. Which isn't to say that Lewis doesn't sing the hell out of the songs on Echo: she has an uncanny gift for hitting impossible notes without seeming as if she's grandstanding. In fact, there's nary an ounce of diva in Lewis, she seems to enjoy singing for the sake of it, which helps her out on an album like Echo, where the melodies are elliptical, not catchy, designed to showcase range, not to stick in the head or evoke emotion. Similarly, the productions are designed to hop into as many different formats as possible -- rhythmic enough for clubs, glassy enough for radio -- and they get by on feel, not feelings, with whatever heart in the music coming from Lewis, who is glad to sing, refusing to become the diva her legions of handlers so clearly want her to be.

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