Sunday, November 15, 2009

Album Review: Leona Lewis "Echo"

Not long after finding rare worldwide success with her debut album Spirit, the powerhouse that is Leona Lewis has returned with her sophomore effort Echo. Overall, fans weren't too pleased with the ballad-heavy Spirit's sluggish pace, so the biggest expectation for Echo was that Leona include more uptempos or, at the very least, a variation of tempos. Luckily, Leona offers up a bit of both with her second album. It doesn't hurt either that the quality of material this time around is a step (or a few!) up.

Echo's first single "Happy" kicks off the album & although the song is a good one, it's not lead single material. I mainly say this because of all the could've-beens the album has to offer, but also because trying to follow up the incredible, groundbreaking "Bleeding Love" with a second or third rate version of it was not the way to introduce this project to the masses. A great example of what SHOULD have been lies in the lively "I Got You," one of Leona's best songs to date. Another nice jam that's almost as good follows in "Love Letter." Next up is "Can't Breathe," a highlight that shows how Leona can sing a ballad without it being the slightest bit dull.

Ryan Tedder produces "You Don't Care," the first of two US-exclusive Echo tracks. This demonstrates Leona & Ryan's ability to collaborate while showing growth instead of trying to replicate "Bleeding Love," which is a wonderful thing. Finally comes the Max Martin-produced "Outta My Head," an awesome uptempo that has Leona somewhat riding today's radio-friendly dance sound without losing herself in it. Naturally, Leona slows it back down on "Brave," but it's gorgeous, so I ain't mad! "My Hands" is another ballad, but yet again, Leona manages to top just about every Spirit track with the impressive number.

One of Echo's bigger songs is "Alive," a vocal showcase brought to us by the excellent John Shanks. Midtempo "Don't Let Me Down," unfortunately, does let me down a bit, while the second US-exclusive "Fly Here Now" has a little more life & is, if only, a notch better. John Shanks does it again though with "Broken," which, with its gigantic chorus & those soaring vocals, is one of my favorites. I also love the OneRepublic-assisted closer "Lost Then Found." Ryan & Leona sound pretty amazing together & I think the two acts' sounds mesh well together. Lest I forget the epic hidden track "Stone Hearts & Hand Grenades." I saved the word 'epic' for this song, as it could easily describe half the album's tracks, because it's just so hauntingly beautiful.

As incredible as Echo may be, I can't help but prefer the album's UK tracklisting. First of all, the sequencing makes a lot more sense to me. I would also gladly take her cover of "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" over "Fly Here Now" (I like "Naked" as well). That said, I'm not gonna act like the two albums aren't both the essence of & magnificence that is Echo. Leona really stepped her game up with this one. Rather than just acknowledging it like last time, I can finally embrace her outstanding talent & truly enjoy her extraordinary music.

Rating: 4.5/5 Stars

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