“I’m coming back with the thunder,” sings Leona Lewis on the opening track for I Am (called, er, Thunder). Ooh, we think. This is old LeeLew getting all feisty with Uncle Simon and the apparently horrendous treatment she received at her former label. Gone is the pop puppet, so perhaps we’ll finally see a shred of personality.
Except we don’t, really. Or what we do see has been so watered-down or glossed with chart-chasing emulsion (look that one up at Farrow & Ball) that even a song like Fire Under My Feet sounds about as troublesome as stubbing out a cig with your shoe. Which is a shame because, even though she was getting a bit robotic, some of the tracks on her previous album Glassheart did bring about some decent musical sense (come on, it even had a far-too-cool Childish Gambino collaboration). It comes through a tiny bit on the jaunty steps of Ladders, despite the previous Massive Attack-aping facepalm of the title track.
The rest? Dreary MOR-pop that bridges Emeli Sande and Jess Glynne (I Got You), or more of those ballads like The Essence of Me that show off her vocal chops – yes, we get it, you can sing – but do very little in the way of etching out finer emotional detail. By the end of it we’re forced to recall a certain other album that also included the words “I Am” in its title. But where that powerhouse showed a multifaceted pop superstar, Leona Lewis gives us so much monotonous gloss that she might as well be a mahogany bannister.
I Am by Leona Lewis can be ordered here.