Wednesday, September 23rd, 2009

Leona Lewis – Happy

The X Factor‘s first global success gets ready to run again…


Michaelangelo Matos: Now that Mariah’s gained a sense of humor and Celine’s in Vegas, our one-stop shop for bombastic prom schlock will apparently come from England. The lyric, wouldn’t you believe it, crosses do-it-all-for-love with my-heart-will-go-on; timpani and choirs make appearances. And it features the best review-within-the-song I’ve heard in a bit: “All these tears they feel like they’re the same/Just different faces, different names/Get me out of here.”

Anthony Miccio: I don’t know why I point out to Mariah fans that she doesn’t have the range she had in the ’90s. It’s not like I’d want to hear her mindlessly bust out the dog whistle on yet another make-it-through-the-rain ballad.

Iain Mew: The portentious opening verse heavily recalls “Nothing Compares 2 U”, but this fails to build on it as sleekly and powerfully as that did. Instead, the ramping up of the drama comes in big clumsy gasps, none more so than the octave straining second time the title is invoked. There are actually some really great touches in places (“if this world just throws me off the edge/My feet run out of ground” is a brilliant image) but they’re dwarfed by the monolithic approach. A shame.

Jessica Popper: Considering “Bleeding Love”‘s colossal greatness, my love for the leaked album track “Brave”, and the fact that Ryan Tedder’s last hit was the incredible “Battlefield”, I had very high expectations for Leona’s new Tedder-penned single, so perhaps I was just setting myself up for disappointment. Happy will please those who liked Leona during The X Factor, but I was hoping for better and the fact that I know there IS better on her forthcoming album makes it all the more frustrating! It will probably be a grower, but when I was expecting a brilliant beltathon I can’t help but be distinctly unhappy. I quite like the “don’t say victim” bit, though.

Martin Kavka: There are lots of reasons to hate this, all enclosed in the phrase “predictable Tedder-penned ballad.” But the pinnacle of my hatred comes at the end of the middle eight, when Lewis sings “Don’t say victim / Don’t say anything.” At that point, I imagine Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas nodding in agreement that Lewis’s/Tedder’s assumption that class mobility and emotional balance are the easiest things in the world. Because it’s only your own bitching that keeps you down! You’re always the one to blame! Whip yourself harder, bitch!

Kat Stevens: I am so bloody sick of Ryan Tedder mega-drum ballads, especially when the opening Sibelius chord promises an episode of The Sky At Night and instead we get plinky plonky Ryan and his four trusty chords. Thank god for Leona and her lungs — she makes great use of her range without having to resort to asthmatic whispering on the low notes and uncontrolled histrionics on the high ones.

John Seroff: A huge steaming flagon of banal syrup, cloying merely by scent, scalding to the tongue, nauseating on first swallow and entirely too much to stomach. Lewis’ voice has all the appeal of a drawing room evening trapped listening to someone else’s marginally talented niece intone bad light opera. Stultifying, uncomfortable, thankfully forgettable and easily the worst thing we’ve had to deal with on the Jukebox since I got here. Can we please not have to deal with Ryan Tedder’s one song anymore, regardless of what he retitles it?

Martin Skidmore: It’s a performance of beauty, range, control, subtlety and plenty of emotion, as well as spectacular pyrotechnics. The song is very strong too, offering encouragement for this terrific performance, and the production sensibly takes a well-gauged supporting role. This has been a magnificent year for soulful female singing, and a key difference between this and Chrisette Michele or Jazmine Sullivan is that Leona sounds like 2009 rather than 1970. Magnificent, and certain to be gigantic.

Edward Okulicz: Leona Lewis is now a capital “b” Brand in pop, you know exactly what you’re going to get — impeccable, impassioned singing. If “Happy”, or any subsequent single, doesn’t move you, it’s not going to be for the lack of any effort expended by Lewis. It’s going to only be because the song isn’t up to scratch. “Happy” is decent, and definitely one for old-school Mariah Carey fans, but the song itself is all lungs and no guts.

Alfred Soto: With her tony tones, Clive Davis connections, and Ryan Tedder-approved songs/production, this woman is already a menace. Here, tackling a proficient power ballad that Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan could have performed in their heydays, she demonstrates nothing but the determination to shove her deserving ass in our faces until Kanye steals her MTV Video Music Award spotlight.

Chuck Eddy: The loud parts almost start to convince me that she’s been sent to earth to fill a void that Taylor Dayne and Celine Dion (and maybe Mariah too) left vacant when they stopped stomping their big huge vocal boots all over the place all those years ago. But then it changes course for reasons that make no logical sense whatsoever, and Leona makes strange quivery sounds, and I get impatient.

Pete Baran: Damn, Leona, I wish I were your lover too. A song like this takes a fair few plays to bed in, and I am not sure there is quite enough to bed it in my bonce. But it’s exactly the kind of track that will allow her to transition to something a little bit more upbeat while maintaining her above par average.

Matt Cibula: Late one night, bedrunkened in that college way, my roommate WW looked over at another dorm and complained, “God, it just SITS there!” That’s pretty much how I feel about this song. It’s nice enough in its own way but it fails to soar when I need it to soar.

3 Responses to “Leona Lewis – Happy”

  1. Kat’s made me feel awfully declasse – that opening bit made me think Moby, not Sibelius (but maybe that says more about Moby than me?). In any case, no offense to anyone else’s work, but part of me wants this entry to be just the two Martins’ blurbs and nothing else.

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