News

Britain's Leona Lewis looks like she could be the Next Big Thing

Glenn Gamboa
Newsday (MCT)

For a 23-year-old, Leona Lewis is quite good at waiting for what she wants.

After winning "X-Factor," the British equivalent of "American Idol," she holed up in studios around the world for more than a year, methodically plugging away at her debut album out of the spotlight. Instead of trying to conquer the world all at once, she started with England last year and slowly worked her way through Europe.

Even as her debut "Spirit" (J/SyCo; Grade: B-plus) arrives in the United States this week on the heels of her No. 1 single "Bleeding Love," Lewis is still taking her time.

"My family is coming today," she said last week, when asked how she was celebrating her first No.1 hit - the first No. 1 hit for a British female solo artist since Kim Wilde's version of "You Keep Me Hangin' On" in 1987. "We'll celebrate when they get here."

And now, all that waiting is about to pay off. Lewis, like her incredibly accomplished debut, is a rarity in the struggling music industry. She sounds like a sure thing.

Her vocals can stand up against powerhouses like Mariah Carey and Celine Dion, but she has a vulnerability that makes people feel they can relate to her. She can handle the big ballads that the over-35 crowd picks up on their weekly Target or Wal-Mart run as well as the hip-hop-tinged up-tempo numbers that the kids are downloading.

"She auditioned for me cold and I thought she had a worldwide talent," RCA Music Group chairman Clive Davis told London's Sunday Times recently. "It was a no-brainer. ... You can never predict anything that's going to happen. But if she doesn't make it with this album, we will just keep trying. There is no doubt that eventually she will."

Lewis said she learned her patience after leaving her performance arts high school when she was 17. "I knew what it was like to be doing gigs and then going into the studio and demoing songs," she said. "I wanted to make a strong album, one that really represented me and to do that I knew I needed time. They respected that."

She co-wrote the Celine Dion-like pop anthem "Whatever It Takes" and the Carey-esque ballad "Here I Am," while working to "put her spin" on songs from Akon ("Forgive Me") and Avril Lavigne ("I Will Be.")

Lewis is proud of the changes she brought to "Bleeding Love," written by OneRepublic's Ryan Tedder and singer-songwriter Jesse McCartney. "I thought it was an amazing song and I liked how it was a different take on the love song - all that romance, love isn't always like that," she said. "But it was originally written for a guy, and I think my singing it makes it more tender."

Though Lewis is happy that "Bleeding Love" is a hit, she's more interested in maintaining a career like Dion or Alanis Morissette, "strong women who handle themselves well."

Will that happen? Lewis is ready to wait and see.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.

Music

The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.

Music

Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.

Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".

Music

GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".

Music

Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".

Music

Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.