After making a splash stateside last year with “Bleeding Love,” UK superstar Leona Lewis hopes her sophomore album, Echo, will duplicate the success of its predecessor. The new 13-track LP finds Lewis treading similar ground to that of her debut, Spirit; the album is filled with tired ballads and optimistic ditties that borderline cheesy and cliché. Instead of taking a new direction, Echo stays true to its title, repeating the adult contemporary sound of her debut. What saves this album from the brink of boring are a few scant tracks that hint at a different side of Ms. Lewis.
The album takes a brief (but much-needed) foray into the world of electro-pop with the Max Martin-produced “Outta My Head.” On the fast-paced dance track, Lewis’ seasoned vocals declare that she’s moving on from a possessive boyfriend, over the glittering production of sputtering synthesizers and handclaps. While dance tracks usually mask a singer’s vocal abilities, this song still manages to highlight Lewis’ powerhouse voice with its climax of rampant vocal runs leading to the signature high note, proving that Lewis has the ferocity to compete with the best of them for dance-floor dominance.
Of the numerous ballads on Echo, the standout is a cover of Oasis’ “Stop Crying Your Heart Out.” The track builds from soft and reassuring vocals solely accompanied by the gentle strumming of a guitar to full orchestration along backing choir and a strong confidence in Lewis’ voice that delivers one of her most heartfelt performances to date. In lyrically raising the spirits of a friend, Lewis’ vocals reach a celestial high when belts out that “All of the stars have faded away / Just try not to worry, you’ll see them someday.”
Lewis falls victim to OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder’s questionable production on the track “Lost and Found,” which coincidently features his band. As a producer, Tedder has recently come under fire for the controversy surrounding the similarities between Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone” and Beyonce’s “Halo,” both of which he produced, and unfortunately, this third Tedder-produced track sounds structurally identical to the aforementioned tracks.
Lewis shines on the few risks she takes with Echo, but with most of the material sounding like leftovers from the Spirit sessions, the album lacks reinvention and a new direction for the songstress. With this forgettable album, time will only tell if Lewis’ career will continue to echo for years to come or gradually fade into obscurity like an unheard whisper.