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-)
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.
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.