Multi-platinum singer and songwriter Leona Lewis, who took the music world by storm with her 2008 debut album Spirit, released its follow-up, ECHO today on J Records/Syco Music.
After proving her commercial potency on the three-time Grammy-nominated Spirit, which entered both the U.K. and U.S. album charts at No. 1, spawned the best-selling single of 2008 (“Bleeding Love”), and sold more than six million copies worldwide, 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, collaborating with a host of A-list songwriters and producers, including re-teaming with One Republic frontman and “Bleeding Love” co-writer/producer Ryan Tedder on three tracks, including the first single “Happy.” She also worked with Swedish studio vet Max Martin and songwriter/producer Novel, as well as new collaborators Justin Timberlake, multi-platinum Bon Jovi/Kelly Clarkson producer John Shanks, and in-demand hitmakers Evan Bogart and Kevin Rudolf. Each helped Lewis deliver raw emotion through the melodies and lyrics and make full use of her “titanium-caliber voice” (as the New York Times has described it). Once again, Clive Davis and Simon Cowell joined forces to co-produce ECHO.
ECHO also finds the 24-year-old London native expanding her palette and exploring adventurous sonic territory. The dancefloor-friendly “Outta My Head” is sleek, stylish electro-pop, while the rock-driven “Love Letter” and “I Got You” show an edgier side of Lewis. 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, lush ballads 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.”
It’s that passion and soulfulness that permeate ECHO, which Lewis can’t wait for the public to hear. “I’m actually more confident with this album than the last,” she says. “I’ve taken more control this time and I feel more at ease with everything. To me, it’s all about great songs. I hope they move people as much as they move me.”
Lewis was “discovered” in 2006 after auditioning for The X Factor, a British talent show executive-produced by American Idol’s Simon Cowell, who is also a judge. The then-22-year old — who attended performing arts academy The BRIT School, and famously worked as a Pizza Hut waitress to support her fledging music career — won the competition after endearing herself to fans week after week with her soaring voice, down-to-earth personality, and striking beauty. Certain he had a superstar on his hands, Cowell phoned legendary music executive and J Records founder Clive Davis, who teamed up with Cowell to sign Lewis to J Records/Syco Music, Cowell’s joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment in 2006.
The track-listing for ECHO is as follows:
“I Got You”
“You Don’t Care”
“Outta My Head”
“Don’t Let Me Down”
“Fly Here Now”
“Lost Then Found” (with One Republic)