A Sweet Sweet Spirit

Posted by Mack of Sound-Savvy On 1:35 PM

Title: Spirit
Artist: Leona Lewis
US Release Date: 4.8.08

Everybody needs someone who they can pour their heart and soul into… Here I am… - Leona Lewis

Let me indulge myself for a moment: this girl is hot! It’s unfortunate that such outside beauty rarely gives way to anything more beyond the surface (heard ‘Stupid Girls’?); but ladies and gentleman there’s oh so much more. Crowned the winner of X-Factor (the UK’s version of Idol) Leona Lewis’ debut album ‘Spirit’ is full of just that. The great thing about this project is that, contrary to American pop music, the most important element of the music actually shines through without hindrance: her voice. ‘Spirit’ is dominated by Lewis’ bold and beautiful vocals, which soar over the production of some of the best in the pop music world. With songs penned by Ne-yo, Akon, Avril Lavigne and Jesse McCartney, Lewis breathes life into each song with such soul and emotion that fully envelope the listener. In short, the girl can sang!

The US version of this album kicks off with ‘Bleeding Love’, and it’s everything a lead single should be: it showcases Leona’s smooth soaring vocal range, and really embodies the themes and sounds of her entire album, giving an accurate taste of what’s in store. ‘I Will Be’ embodies a gray piano melody similar to Lavigne’s other jam ‘When You’re Gone’, and we forgive Akon for recycling the ‘Sweet Escape’ beat on the upbeat but borderline scandalous 'Forgive Me’. Re-used production aside, Lewis uses the power of her vocal range to make each song her own. This holds especially true on her stunning cover of the 50-year-old classic, ‘The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face’ where the rises and falls of her voice completely capture the sensitivity of the lyrics. Her rendition easily contends with those done by some of music’s legends: Roberta Flack, Celine Dion, Johnny Cash and Lauryn Hill to highlight just a few.

At first, I thought a voice this big was best served over balladry, but she’s equally impressive on the up-tempo ‘Misses Glass’ and the bitter mid ‘Take a Bow’ (cause you’ve taken everything else). Johnta Austin (where’s his album anyway??) took the helm on ‘Angel’, another mid-tempo love song complete with the syrupy sweet lyrics ‘For every night I say a prayer, well I swear you are the answer, you’re an angel…’. Undeniably, one of the greatest contributions to this project is ‘Footprints In The Sand’. Accompanied by a tear-jerking video (YouTube it!), the lyrics are meant to touch the soul, and her voice ensures it. This song, among several others, gave me chills.

Like all albums some songs excel beyond others, but there’s really not a bad song on this album. There is a lot of catchiness to the hooks, but hey it’s pop music. The bottom line is this: Leona Lewis may have been discovered on television, but her ‘Spirit’ attests to the fact that she’s no manufactured talent. She’s hailed by many as the second coming of Whitney Houston, and after one listen, you’ll understand why. So clear some room in your MP3 player for some ‘Spirit’ – you’ll be glad you did.


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