Leona Lewis was the first major success from the UK’s X-Factor and so has always been given more scrutiny for her career than the others. Breaking the stigma that winning the competition meant your future music career was DOA, she dominated British music for a handful of years before numerous album delays and half-hearted single releases knocked her off her stride and sent her a little far back from the British pop pack.
Fortunately she put the worries, stresses and tribulations of last album Glassheart behind her and has moved forward to regaining her pop star status with Xmas-themed album Christmas, With Love. Saccharine title aside, it’s actually proven to be one of the most fun and palatable offerings this year.
The album kicks off in joyous mood with lead single ‘One More Sleep’, which is definitely one of the more interesting and pleasantly enjoyable original Christmas songs heard during this year’s festive season – it’s a fun, sixties-flavored throwback of a track that manages to channel classic girl groups like The Crystals and is a sweet, classic-sounding way to kick off the album and is sure to induce some feel-good sensations as the nights get darker and colder.
Christmas, With Love is shockingly good generally throughout the rest of the album, mixing vintage favorites with new tracks to great effect; ‘Your Hallelujah’ is a beautiful track full of soft and subdued vocals (which is right up on Leona’s alley) while her covers of ‘I Wish It Could Be Christmas’ and ‘O, Holy Night’ are joyously catchy and dramatic respectively. Album closer ‘Silent Night’ is also deserving of mention and praise for its gorgeously atmospheric air and the chilled-out resolution it brings to the album.
The retro vibe is extremely prominent throughout on certain tracks, such as the catchy, Supremes-esque ‘Winter Wonderland’ cover and the danceable Motown track ‘Mr. Right’, both of which sound as though they could have been plucked right from the heyday of the Sixties. Leona also shows some great sonic turns and explorations here, notably performing a standout operatic vocal performance in album highlight ‘Ave Maria’ in which she is almost unrecognizable and stunning in equal measure.
Is everything picture perfect on Christmas, With Love? Not quite – ‘White Christmas’, while a classic, is quite filler here and some of the songs are good, but a little too similar sometimes for comfort. Fortunately, the vocals and production on the album are all very strong indeed and if nothing else, it’s a very fun, sweet and frothy album for this time of year. Do we want more seasonal albums in lieu of new stuff from Leona? No, but then again, she might have just given us a record worth giving a spin when the winter holidays roll around. Glad to see you back, Ms. Lewis; now let’s break out the eggnog.