First Listen: Leona Lewis Releases Preview of White Christmas from CHRISTMAS, WITH LOVE
When Leona Lewis released her debut album Spirit in the U.S. in April 2008, she and her mentors Simon Cowell and Clive Davis took the world by storm and set off an unstoppable chain of record-breaking events that culminated in the newcomer becoming 2008's best-selling new artist of the year worldwide.
Spirit was already a phenomenon in Lewis' native U.K. (having entered the album chart at No. 1 and becoming Britain's fastest-selling debut of all time) by the time it was released in the U.S., where it also entered the U.S. charts at No. 1, making the London-born singer and songwriter with the rich, lustrous voice the first British artist, male or female, ever to debut in the top spot on the Billboard album chart with a first album. Spirit went on to earn multiple Grammy Award nominations and sell more than six million copies worldwide, spearheaded by the success of its chart-topping hit singles, the blockbuster "Bleeding Love" (which was the best-selling overall single and top-selling iTunes single of 2008) and the multi-platinum "Better In Time."
So who could blame Lewis if, when it came time to make her second album, she wanted to stick to the lush balladeering that made Spirit such an extraordinary success. Thing is, Lewis isn't content to rest on her laurels and she proves it on ECHO. Though every song showcases her astonishingly powerful voice, ECHO also finds the 24-year-old expanding her palette beyond her signature ballads and seeking additional adventurous sonic territory. The dancefloor-friendly "Outta My Head" is sleek, stylish electro-pop, while the rock-driven "Love Letter" and "I Got You" find Lewis exploring an edgier side. Then there's "Brave," which soars with a Middle Eastern influence and pounding timpanis, and the sultry, synth-driven "Fly Here Now."
"I really wanted a dramatic, almost cinematic quality to the songs," says Lewis, a self-described "film nerd" who namechecks '80s fantasy film The Labyrinth as her all-time favorite. "We would even put on movies in the studio to inspire us, it was a cool way of writing. I'm always thinking of scenes in my head." Of course, ECHO features plenty of epic, widescreen gems to satisfy Spirit fans, including the uplifting first single "Happy," which Lewis says is "about overcoming obstacles and striving for happiness," and People magazine called "passionate and soul-searching."
After proving her commercial potency on Spirit, ECHO gave Lewis the opportunity to take a few chances. "I knew that I had evolved as a singer, songwriter, and performer," she says, "so it was important to me to take the songs on ECHO to the next level and show what else I could do."
To that end, Lewis co-wrote nine songs on the album, working with a host of top-notch songwriters and producers, including re-teaming with One Republic frontman and "Bleeding Love" co-writer and producer Ryan Tedder (on "Happy," "You Don't Care," and "Lost Then Found," the latter backed by One Republic), Swedish studio vet Max Martin ("I Got You," "Outta My Head"), and songwriter/producer Novel ("Broken"), as well as new collaborators Justin Timberlake (who co-wrote "Don't Let Me Down"), multi-platinum Bon Jovi/Kelly Clarkson producer John Shanks ("Alive," "Broken"), plus in-demand hitmakers Evan Bogart and Kevin Rudolf. Each helped Lewis deliver truly raw emotion through the melodies and lyrics and making full use of her "titanium-caliber voice" (as the New York Times has described it).