I know I’ll forget the first time I heard, “Bleeding Love,” the monstrous debut single from UK songbird, Leona Lewis. Oh, how it just tugged at my music heartstrings, with its pulsating beat, that crippling church organ intro, and vocals that simply that just took over….my life. I remember thinking, “Wow, this song and this gal are going to be huge hits! ” Sadly, I was only right about ONE of those things. The Ryan Tedder/Jesse McCartney(!)penned “Bleeding Love” indeed did take over the Billboard charts, spending four non-consecutive weeks on top, and made Ms. Leona a household name, well, at least for 2008, anyway. While the incredibly talented Adele English Breakfast tea sipping diva has had some killer cuts passed to our headphones(“I Got You”….sigh….), none have come close to “Bleeding” on the charts, and the music struggle has been real for our girl through the years. So, on that “Forgot About Friday” high note, let’s get lost in all things Leona Lewis, because she is one talent that we should always musically revel in….and never forget.
At the young age of 17, Lewis decided to drop of out of school to put herself out there and into a career in music. By this point, the diva had already begun to write and record her own material, while working as a receptionist at a solicitors office and as a waitress at good ol’ Pizza Hut in order to get that coin for her studio sessions. All of that hard work paid off, because soon, she secured a lead role in The Lion King theatre show in Paris; however, she decided to turn it down after hurting her back ice skating…but, then…’The X Factor’ came calling….
Lewis auditioned for the third season of ‘The X Factor’ in 2006, blowing away judges Simon Cowell, Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne and guest judge Paula Abdul with her explosive retelling of “Over the Rainbow.” During the course of the season, Lewis’ talents were compared to Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Celine Dion (as well as other artists), as she performed songs by all three of the chart busting divas. She was officially named the winner of the competition in December 2006, and her winners single? A mind-blowing cover of Kelly Clarkson’s first #1 song, “A Moment Like This.” After Leona’s version was released in the UK, it broke a world record after being digitally downloaded more than 50,000 times in less than 30 minutes. The song also became the 2006 UK Christmas number-one single, selling 571,000 copies in its first week and selling more than the Top-40 combined. Of her ‘The X Factor’ win and “A Moment Like This’ success, Leona went on to say, “I’m just shocked. It’s unbelievable. I feel like my dream has come true, the dream I’ve been dreaming since a little girl has come true. There were points I thought, ‘You know what, I don’t know if this is going to happen. But with the help from my friends and my family, they all kept telling me to believe in myself and keep on doing it and I did and now I’m here and thank you so much to them.”
In early ’07, Lewis signed a five-album contract in the United States with Clive Davis’s record label, J Records. A press release described how Cowell and Davis would work together in a “first-of-its-kind” partnership on both the song and producer selection for Lewis’s debut album, ‘Spirit.’ When Lewis recorded her first set, she recorded tracks for it all over the music globe-London, Miami, Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta. She also worked with top-notch collaborators, with Dallas Austin, Walter Afanasieff, Stargate and Ne-Yo all jumping on board. When ‘Spirit’ was released in the UK in November 2007, it entered both the Irish Albums Chart and the UK Albums Chart at number one, becoming the fastest selling debut album in both countries, and the United Kingdom’s fourth fastest selling album…of all time. When Leona’s debut set was released stateside in April 2008, it entered the Billboard 200 at number one, making Lewis the first British artist to reach number one with a debut album. To date, ‘Spirit’ has sold over 9 million copies worldwide and has a 9× platinum(werk!) certification in the UK.
Once “Love” and Leona had taken over hearts and souls, later on that same year, the songstress joined several female singers to perform a single for the anti-cancer campaign, Stand Up to Cancer. The single, titled “Just Stand Up!,” was performed live during the one-hour telethon that aired on all major US television networks. Lewis also received three nominations for the 51st Grammy Awards in December 2008, as “Bleeding Love” was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and ‘Spirit’ was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album. In December 2008, she was named ‘Top New Artist’ by Billboard magazine. So, what we want to know is, what the hell happened?
When Ms. double L released her second album, ‘Echo,’ in 2009, it was a departure of sorts for her, as she ushered in a smolder, sexier, edgier sound, especially in tracks like “Love Letter,” “Outta My Head” and “You Don’t Care.” Led by (underrated) single, “Happy,” ‘Echo’ still brought the explosive collaborative like ‘Spirit’ did, with Timbaland and Mr. Justin Timberlake, who appears on the simmering, “Don’t Let Me Down.” Ryan Tedder also pops up again, and he’s dazzling alongside Leona in “Lost Then Found,” a big, bold heavenly track complete with lush orchestration and soaring gospel vocal arrangements. While ‘Echo’ was a moderate hit worldwide selling 3 million copies, it didn’t fare so well on U.S. charts, selling only 200, 000 copies..sigh…
When Leona got to work on her third studio set, ‘Glassheart,’ reports surfaced that the new album had a dubstep-py feel, and songwriters were asked to submit dance songs and no ballads. Ms. Lewis described ‘Glassheart’ as “energetic, deep and unique” and said it would have a darker tone. For the album, Lewis worked with numerous writers and producers including Ammo, Jonas Quant, Chuck Harmony, Claude Kelly, Rico Love, Ne-Yo. Mr. Tedder, and DJ Aviicii, who produced ‘Glassheart’ lead single, the dazzling, ‘Collide.’ However, while the much delayed set was met with critical acclaim and decent sales, even having Leona go on a fancy UK tour, due to internal conflicts with her record label, she left her management team shortly after the release, and besides her ’13 holiday album, Leona has yet to put out new music, but the diva has posted Instagram pics of her workin’ it in the studio…so something is coming soon, it’s just a matter of when…sigh…
When it comes to “Forgot About Friday,” of course, there are some artists that we really don’t need to hear from again(have a seat, Dream), but there are some, especially Ms. Lewis, who rightfully deserve a long moment in the music sun once again. While, true, Ms. Lewis has made millions from her earlier work, she rightfully deserves to keep the coin going, because as you guys read and heard above, this a true talent that is worth every single penny…and we should never forget that.