Tuesday, 16 October 2012

[Album Review] Leona Lewis "Glassheart"

X-Factor winner Leona Lewis' third album, Glassheart, has been a long time coming. Originally scheduled for a 2011 release, already two years after her second album Echo, it was pushed back when its lead single Collide received a less than stellar reception from fans and music buyers alike.

To tide us over while Glassheart was being retooled there was the (pretty great) Hurt EP. But seeing as it consisted entirely of cover songs, it only added fuel to the "we want new music" fire.

Still, this week sees its release and I have my copy! But the question is: was Glassheart worth the wait? Well, if you love ballads, then yes. If you wanted something a little different from the Bleeding Love songstress, then not so much.

Below is my track by track review of the album.
Un love Me: melodically sounds kind of like a Taylor Swift song. It's a slow burner of a ballad that chugs along nice and sweetly. In many ways it's a ballad by numbers, but it's still a beautiful song which contains some nice head notes and a restrained vocal. Still, a little too sugary for me.

The Pitch has been lowered on this youtube video

Lovebird: This sounds like a composite of a few other Leona Lewis songs: a mix of My Hands, Better In Time with an intro much like Bleeding Love. Sadly it doesn't live up to the standard of any of those songs. It's pretty, but once again, slightly boring and way too safe. The bridge hints at the potential for a strong closing half but ultimately it fails to deliver.

Thank God for Come Alive and its change in tempo, because I was beginning to fall asleep. Spirited vocals, and a continuation of the gritter sound that opening track Trouble promised. I absolutely love the rise and fall of this track, particularly when moving towards its conclusion.

Fireflies: Another Ballad, 4 for 5 so far. But it's a little speedier and has an interesting chantey chorus that could catch on if the song is released as a single. The continuous piano refrain in the background gives the song an immediate, and memorable motif, that will get stuck in your brain. The heavy beat weights the song, stopping it from becoming too saccharine, but it's starting to worry me that Leona's voice isn't as a ...Stunning? Interesting? Moving? as it has sounded to me previously.

I To You: Starts off like Empire State Of Mind with an imposing beat, but thankfully doesn't sound anything like it when everything else kicks in. A darker, more imposing song than anything previous, with a beautiful string section that adds drama to the piece. Leona Lewis spends most of the verses in her mid-range, and only ascends to her belting range (very briefly) in the second half of the song. Not a fan of the melody of the song's chorus, it's slightly ugly. (C)

Shake You Up: It's weird to hear (at the start of the track) how sweet and light Leona's speaking voice sounds in comparison to her singing voice I immediately like this 80's inspired, Darkchild produced, pop song. With its fully synthesised backing, Leona changes up her vocals, being lighter with it and giving us some nice falsetto notes that are sympathetic to the tracks backing.(B)

Stop the Clocks: Another song that sounds like it wouldn't have been out of place on her first album, Spirit. I'm seriously starting to get depressed with the ballads on Glassheart. Another boring, slightly insipid ballad that goes absolutely nowhere. There is potential here, but it's all lost by the failed climax (AGAIN!).(C)

Favourite Scar: Drawn in from the immediate. Good sign, Leona switches up her style, talk-singing during the verses. Favourite Scar has a really strange melody, and some odd harmonies, but its an individualistic sound that this set of similar sounding songs really needed. Once again, another middle eight that fails to launch. Whoever did the vocal arrangement on this album really dropped the ball.(C+)
Pitch changed again

When It Hurts: A ballad that sounds right from the outset. Arpeggio chords, slowly built on with strings, percussion and the vocal; it's an attacking backing that most of the songs so far have lacked, and suffered for. However, another flat ending.(B-)
Pitch lowered

Glassheart. Back to the club with this. Stuttering beats, synths and an aggressive vocal, all make me swoon! Love this. Varied vocals, varied backing, and a song that actually has a structure and climax that works!!(A)

Fingerprint: Starts like a beautiful lullaby, with a pleasant and engaging chord progression. Melodically we seem to be onto a winner too. Leona's voice sounds beautiful here, and Fingerprint is making me fall in love with it all over again. Love the dynamics of her voice here, dark and mysterious one moment, clear and ringing out the next. Stand out track on the album. (A+)

Glassheart is an album of two halves. After the failure of Collide (which is notable by its absence) it's
obvious the powers that be wanted to traverse a safer, aka "Classic" Leona, route to avoid a potential flop. A fact seemingly borne out by reports made during the album's recording that only dance tracks were to be submitted for consideration. As a result, (more than half of) Glassheart is crammed with boring ballads that tend to blur into one due to their similarities.

These are in stark contrast to the edgier cuts such as Trouble, Come Alive, and Glassheart which channel a very British sound and form little islands of respite in a sea of sappiness. It's in these songs that I hear Leona Lewis' voice most alive and engaged with the material, and its here I find the most joy.

It's just a shame that they didn't have the confidence to follow through with the original concept for the album because it could have been a defining moment in her career. As it is, Glassheart is a step to the side, rather than a step forward for Leona Lewis.

Rating: C+

Where I can, I've tried to add the songs, so please listen and leave your opinions in the comments! Would love to hear them, especially considering Glassheart is getting great reviews everywhere else.


  1. I really find the songs boring. Dont get me wrong, i love ballads. I love her songs like Yesterday, Better in Time, Im You, etc. But in my opinion, these new ones dont even come close.

  2. I think that you hit upon the issue with the production and marketing of Leona Lewis. I felt they never gave her enough room or motivation to adopt an on-record personality. She's a good vocalist but three albums later we don't get to learn much about how Leona views her music. The closest peak we had to that was during her time on X Factor which followed her origins and her decision to compete. Since that time, the powers that be have not really worked on establishing a deeper connection between her songs and her personality. So the result is we have a lot of varied ballads and some club bangers which Lewis executes well but there is no overarching sense of where it is all going. It would be good if the production would finally give us a doorway into Leona the person, not just Leona the singer.

  3. Hmm I honestly like this Album. Much more so then Echo. I suppose I just like Leona for her ballads- to me although she "can" sing up tempo songs they just don't sound as clear and crystal and beautiful like her ballads. Love Bird sounds like a Bleeding love/My hands mix with better in time's cords...Shake you up stood out to me. It is odd at first But I like Leona's employment of a more childlike tonal technique for it. It sounds light and effortless. Sometimes her bigger vocals sound a bit heavy. I guess she is trying to play it safe since her attempt to go a different sound direction didn't end so well for her.

  4. I think you misunderstood "Lovebird"..that surely was an exercise in how many cliche lines can be put into one song. As such this really ought to be rated as an A+? I personally have not heard a lyric containing more in my life.

    Generally C sounds about right. This all sounds to me like the kind of album which is destined to land in the 2$ bin within a few months.

  5. Trash after trash. Give it up, girl!

  6. I didn't really get into the lyrics of the album, Opie. I gave it three whirls before the write up. so I appreciate any comments that will give me a deeper insight into the record! Perhaps I should have watched the lyric video I've uploaded for it...lol

  7. I thought you'd like this Brian, because of the ballads. I just wish they went a little more Old school Leona with the big vocals-upper belts- during many of the songs closing halves.

  8. I wanted to avoid using the "B" word *cough*boring*cough* because i think that's an unfair criticism usually thrown at her personally But I do think this album was a little bit ...lets use the word "dry". I totally get what you mean about her voice being more characterful during the X-Factor live shows.

  9. 3 whirls!!! Impressive stamina. ;)

    Can't say I listened to the lyrics of the other songs much.
    In fact, none of the songs could hold my attention for more than halfway through at best. Only that video did show the lyrics and I watched that to the end. Fascinated as I was with how long they were going to keep the cliche lines coming. All the way to the end it turned out.
    I am afraid I lack your stamina and won't be able to provide anything deeper than this LOL

    But I will say, I loved Bleeding Love and am sorry to hear she never really managed to live up to that song. I had some hope for Leona initially.

  10. I went for the deluxe option as I always do, mind you that extra cd offers little, I would say this review is correct. A shame, she truly has a beautiful voice but that seems to have been abandoned here.

  11. I can't really blame her though. She delivers the lyrics, she delivers the material. But I am continually disappointed that they package her as a mindless songbird. It's really ridiculous. Leona needs more presentation and strategy behind her image. I feel like she is just being shown as a beautiful capable singer and not much else and I know she has more substance than that. They are making her forgettable and that's unfortunate. During X Factor, she was anything but!

  12. You know one thing I don’t like about X factor is there not
    enough motivation for artist to be unique or encouragement of individuality but
    more promoting you have to be, this or sing that, to be popular. (at least that’s
    my opinion), but that’s something that comes when being introduced to the world
    from a reality show talent competition. (I do give The Voice credit for taking
    more of interest in talent being unique.
    I think Leona in particularly is example of how she was showcased on X
    factor as the girl who has the pipes to sing anything, which is great for
    commercial purposes. After the X Factor, her record label took her in and
    continued to package her as a songbird, when she should be given the
    opportunity to show she is an artist. A lot of artists go through this but and rebel
    around their second or third album. She
    seems very sweet to were she can comes off as she would be passive to her
    production. That being the case her production could be taking advantage that
    telling her what’s best for her career, which probably is them keeping her in a
    box. I would love to see her branch out and take some risk on something she is
    personally enjoy and is passionate about. But also think the connections help
    an artist become more independent. But that a whole different
    conversation. I would love to see work
    with deferent artist and producers that will feed of her as individual.

  13. She hasn't really abandoned her voice, it's as beautiful as ever. the material is just stale, and most songs are a rehash of her two most famous songs. AKA Better in time and Bleeding Love

  14. I agree! I miss those songs awfully. :(
    She could've done so much better!
    But it actually works as an experiment album.

  15. After reading your comment, curiosity got the best of me and I did the unthinkable and clicked play on Lovebird. Geez, the lyrics were cringe worthy. Listening to the song gave me second hand embarrassment. This album seems so uninspired. The nails have been hammered into the coffin that contains the last remnants of Leona's career. After all of these years, she has still failed to find her sound. Rarely does Leona every put her stamp on a song; she sings the lyrics, but injects no life or emotion into her voice. She's got a great voice and she's beautiful, but she has no star power. I'm going to go play Can't Breathe to cleanse myself of this mess.

  16. Oooooh I loved 'Lovebird'. I was tearing up after the first verse.
    But I'm a cheese lover that also liked 'Triumphant'. :|

  17. LOL Now you got my curiosity peaking..what's "Can't breathe"?

  18. LOL I like Can't Breathe because it's one of the few songs that Leona actually shines on because it highlights her vocal strengths. Pop songs never really have substantial lyrics, and Can't Breathe is no exception.

    Also, those are some great lyrics, and the song is beautiful as well.

  19. LOL I'd say that depends on what you consider a pop song. I sure have heard some with substantial lyrics.
    Though admittedly...those are from back when I was still listening to a fair amount of pop music.
    You could well be right in this not occurring anymore these days.

    I'm not saying anything bad about you liking Can't breathe. Just that the subject was lyrics and those aren't all that good. But definitely not by far as bad as the lyrics of "Lovebird". :)

  20. I was referring to today's top 40/ mainstream pop music. Also, I didn't take offense to your comment on Can't Breathe. I'm not fan of Leona, I literally like two songs by her: Bleeding Love and Can't Breathe.

  21. Good because certainly no offense was intended. :)

    Btw not only are those great lyrics and is it a beautiful song, Maria mcKee for my money is a better singer. Did you ever see the video of her singing breathe live?


  22. Sorry but I disagree with this review. it's her best album to date and is far from boring.

  23. I love you, Spark. I love you. You can take words straight out of my mouth.

  24. Even if I am not a huge fan of some of these artists, I can tell many of them have talent. And it's clear when talent is being poorly promoted or poorly presented. Leona Lewis is one such act. I think she needs to either supplement her team with folks that can more accurately (and excitingly) present her musical personality or she needs to start developing some of her own image interests and presenting them on future projects. Too much of this process has been ceded to Syco and we don't get to see he rindividuality. This is what is hampering her ability reconnect with the mainstream after "Bleeding Love" and "Better in Time." We've seen the sweet, tender, shy young lady from London. Now we're waiting hear more about other sides of the artist.

  25. @disqus_xFfeBLW5Rb:disqus: It's kind of disappointing to see her now, with her label currently working more intensively on promoting younger acts like 1D and Cher Lloyd, but it's obvious they are not AS talented as Leona. (Not to offend anyone). Even Little Mix isn't having much promotion. It's kind of disgusting seeing the label just thinking about money when they can't bring their artists out as a whole. She could have done so much better (obviously). Some followed her since X Factor, there IS more than just "the sweet, tender, shy young lady from London" with vocals that are compared to Whitney, etc... She could be herself, show more and stop being compared to other divas. Kind of sad seeing her trying to follow trends on this album though.... Or it could be that she just didn't want the album to be too "expected"... I am trying so hard to say something good about this album it's disgusting. -_-

  26. My favorite song is UnLove me, it was amazing and you could really feel the emotion. When I bought the CD that's the only song I listened to. I think GlassHeart (the single) will appeal to the public more. On the Deluxe album there's a song called Sugar. Sugar is by far the best song she has ever sung.. ever... You must listen to it!

  27. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZglG1zaOK6o

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