Album review: Leona Lewis - Echo

Leona Lewis - Echo
Leona has the voice, but she lacks star quality. It's easy to say she's the next Mariah or Whitney. But let's be honest: is she any where near as interesting or captivating!? Sure, them bitches is pretty washed up now. But in their hey day; Mariah and Whitney had us in the palms of their hands. Leona wouldn't be able to scoop me into the palm of her hand unless she were Optimus Prime. But a lot can happen between albums...right?

From the very start, Echo drops a turd. "Happy" is a shitty song. It's far too safe. I think the worst thing Leona's team did was to put "Happy" out as a first single, because it doesn't showcase the new direction of Echo or show Leona in any different a light to that of her debut. The same goes for "Lost and found", which adhere's the now tired and played out template which Ryan Tedder has run so far into the ground that he must be kicking it in Splinter's lair with Ninja turtles. Thankfully Leona is done right by with "I got you". With its catchy hook, Leona's airy vocals and a backdrop of guitars, 808's, synths and live drums - "I got you" is a great song. It suits Leona right down to the ground; adopting a style she touched on for her debut, only honed it to a complete tee. "My hands" isn't miles away from "Happy", and if you didn't know better - you'd swear it was produced and written by Ryan Tedder. The song is boring, it doesn't go anywhere. I always disliked the song. But hate it that it's been commissioned as the theme for the Western release of Final Fantasy XIII. The song makes me want to smack a bitch with my hand. Being an X-Factor winner, I guess we should have known Leona would sneak a cover onto her album. And this time we get her taking on Oasis' "Stop crying your heart out". I liked the original. I hate Leona's version. Technically, she sounds great on the song. But she's so void of any real emotion or feeling. Plus, the shift in style and tone just kicks the song into completely mediocrity.

"Can't breathe" is one of my favourite songs on the album, and it makes "Happy" sound rubbish (not a hard thing to do). This would make a really nice single late into the albums' cycle. The haunting beauty of the chorus and the production which gives off this feeling of complete exhilaration is just amazing. Leona's vocals shine on this song. Not only does she own the whole entire thing in her delivery, but she hits some serious notes towards the end which send chills down me every time I hear them. Justin Timberlake contributes to the album mid-tempo "Don't let me down". The finalized album version doesn't differ all that much from the leaked version. It features strings from the bridge section onwards and there's a strange flange and delay on Justin's vocals. But other that? Pretty much the same. This isn't a bad song, but it's not great neither. The music just plods along with no new melodies or instrumentations being introduced to help break the monotony. The vocal production is pretty lax in comparison to some of Justin's more recent productions. And the whole song just feels drawn out. Plus, Justin has recycled this southern style "Rehab" sound with guitars and piano's way too much already. He needs to lay it to rest for a while. Or even better, head shot it.

Leona's album comes packing a big ol' ballad-esque song, and it does not disappoint. When "Brave" first leaked, I was in love with it. And now it's been re-touched for the album, I love it even more. Heavier kicks, some re-arranged guitars and harder hitting snares 'n hand claps help elevate this song and give it an even grander sound. If released at the right time, with the right video - this could do big things for Leona. It's a shame this wasn't chosen as the theme for the Western release of Final Fantasy XIII, as it fits it better than "My hands". Even down to the lyrics.

Uptempo and fast pop isn't something you'd really associate with Leona. Which is why it came as a complete shock when I first heard "Outta my head". It is unlike anything Leona Lewis has done before. A surprise, but the best kind. Producer Max Martin and Shellback (notable for their successes with P!nk's "So what" and Britney's "3" amongst others) give Leona an 80's electro pop sizzler of a song: with synth lines and fast tempo bass lines very reminiscent of Erasure. The song is amazing! Leona sounds great and the hook worms its way into your head and won't get out of it. "Outta my head" is the one song on the album which shows Leona in a light that she needs to be basking in a little more often. "Outta my head" is the song that pretty much sold the album to me. "Love letter" is very much in the same vein as "I got you", except it has more of a bounce and an edge to it. Stepping up from "Love letter" comes "Naked". It's not really a style you'd associate with Leona, but it really suits her. With this said though; Leona's vocals lack the punch and commanding quality a song like this could have benefited from. She often sounds a little too nice, when she should be a little rough around the edges. I appreciate how nice it is to hear a song like this from an artist who can actually sing. But I do feel Leona's delivery could have been pushed a little more. Max Martin and Shellback do a stellar job with the production though, and once again give Leona a song that will surprise many.

Echo is a really nice album. It's sound is much more focused than Spirit and showcases Leona better as an artist rather than just 'That X-Factor winner with the really good voice'. But the album as a whole just isn't captivating enough. There are occasional flecks of greatness with this album, but these moments are too few for the album to stand tall as an essential set that will be remembered and stand the test of time.

Whilst Leona has the hottest song writers and producers at her disposal, she really needs to start looking within herself and finding that something that will enable her to be taken notice off as a bona fide, fully fledged pop star. She's a long way off. But she's a baby step closer with this album.

6 / 10
Album highlights:
■ I got you
■ Can't breathe
■ Brave
■ Outta my head J's fave
■ Love letter
■ Naked
■ Don't let me down


  1. I am with you there with the Final Fantasy XIII theme! Hands down (pun intended!) it should've been "Brave"! Hell, it could've been "I Got You"!

  2. "Can't Breathe" is siiiiick! There's not one female in the game right now that can lay down vocals like that.

    "Brave" has kind of an underlying dark vibe to it with the drums and guitar, and just has an overall awesome sound. It would have indeed been awesome and much better for FFXIII.

  3. I disagree Jun; I can think of a few girls who can hit those notes on "Can't Breathe." But, it's not the high notes, truly amazing though they are, that impressed me about the song. It's the fact that Leona has actually found some semblance of vocal artistry. She's always had this enormous voice but she's never had her own sound. "Can't Breathe" has Leona written all over it. I think "Echo" is exactly what one would hope for from a sophomore album: artistic growth. Leona has finally done enough covers to figure out her niche.


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