After rising to fame on the Dutch version of the reality television show X Factor, Lisa Lois made her full-length album debut with Smoke, a soul-pop effort produced in London that follows in the footsteps of Amy Winehouse and innumerable other British vocalists with the same style. While the style of Smoke is overly typical of the soul-pop style popularized by Winehouse on her international blockbuster Back to Black (2006), albeit heavy on straight-edged ballads and without the throwback vibe of that landmark album, it's a suitable showcase for Lois as a vocalist with impressive pipes. Well aware of her mainstream appeal as a first-place winner on X Factor, the heretofore unknown London-based production team TMS (Tom Barnes, Peter Kelleher, Ben Kohn) crafts a full album's worth of soul-pop that's firmly middle of the road. Hence the reliance on strong-willed ballads and sappy string arrangements. For instance, whereas Winehouse sang about how her man knows that she's no good on "You Know I'm No Good," Lois sings how her man is no good for her on "No Good for Me." This album-opening highlight is one of several songs that were penned for Lois by British singer/songwriter Pixie Lott and songwriter/producer Phil Thornalley. This is another notable difference between Lois and Winehouse, who wrote her own songs on Back to Black. Lois may not be a songwriter in her own right, but she's surely capable of delivering the goods as a vocalist. There's no better instance of this on Smoke than album-closing cover of the Leonard Cohen standard "Hallelujah," performed sparely with only acoustic piano backing. It's an impressive rendition of an all-too-familiar song, and it speaks to the vocal talent of Lois, not to mention her command of English.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier