Sunday, September 16, 2012

Leona Lewis: The Sad Decay Of A Promising Pop Career

Leona Lewis scored my No. 1 song of 2008, "Run," featuring Snow Patrol. That same year, while at Billboard, I deemed her Spirit my No. 3 album of the year, writing: "A global debut that stands alongside Whitney, Mariah, Celine. Vocal perfection, pistol-packing songs, ace production." She was named my Best New Artist, with all promise of becoming the next Delta Goodrem as a fine songwriter with a superstar voice capable of proffering indelible pop melodies.

Lewis had a gracious handful of hits on my Taylor Top 40, including her global debut "Bleeding Love" and follow-up "Better In Time," along with (my) massive "Footprints In the Sand," "Happy," "I Got You," "I Will Be" and "I See You (Theme from Avatar)." More recently, she grazed my playlist with "Collide" and "Broken."

But then came a bunch of subsequent releases that just didn't fit her persona: like EP "Hurt," which was little more than a throwaway, with R&B production that undermined her soaring pop vocals and ability to be so much more than Beyonce. Worse yet was recent EP "It's All For You," which attempted to frame Lewis as... what?... Beyonce sans hooks? Lead single "Trouble," featuring rapper (and comedian?!) Childish Gambino, was such a mess that I deleted it from my iTunes playlist after one listen. God-awful.

Coming in October 2012 is Leona's third full-length studio album Glassheart. The good news: She's reunited with Ryan Tedder, producer of previous "Bleeding Love" and "Happy." But then there's the potentially game-killing side: She also worked with Naughty Boy, Rodney "Darkchild" Jerkins and Dallas Austin on the project, which leads one to believe Lewis is still attempting to conjure hits by parading as an R&B act. (I won't even comment on the cover at left... but one word comes to mind: lionfish.)

If she has indeed given into the grave error of recording an R&B-centric project, I dare say that will likely seal Lewis' fate as a has-been, sadly with so much untapped potential. And I have to wonder: Have she and her label team been listening to top 40 radio at all this year? Pop music with sing-along melodies is where it's at, baby. I can't tell you how sad I am to potentially shovel dirt on the grave of Leona Lewis' career. I had such high hopes. But R&B/hip-hop... for a momentously talented pop artist... in 2012? Why in the world would she insist on slumming? *