With reality TV behemoth The X Factor being over for another year – the winner’s assault for the Christmas number one slot aside – it remains to be seen how well this year’s contestants will fare, longevity wise. Success stories are few in comparison to the numerous contestants that have appeared on the show’s treadmill. This week sees the latest single from one of the show’s most successful winners, Leona Lewis, though even her career has been on a downward spiral since the monster début single, ‘Bleeding Love’. Will her latest single help turn things around?
Also in the all-female line-up of this week’s selection is country-pop crossover success, Taylor Swift, with the newest single from her latest album, Red. There’s also a new single from kooky pop singer Carly Rae Jepsen, who had arguably the biggest hit of the Summer with ‘Call My Maybe’, which has become a widespread pop culture reference point. Has lightning struck a second time for the young Canadian? Finally there’s underground artist Maya von Doll who will surely be hoping her new single will help bring her some mainstream success. We begin, however, with Ms Lewis’ new single, ‘Lovebird’.
‘Lovebird’ by Leona Lewis (Rating: **)
Reviewed by Jake Basford
‘Lovebird’ by Leona Lewis is the latest ballad to come from the X Factor legend, and is taken from her latest album, Glass Heart.
Yes, we get the symbolism of love and birds and cages etc., but is she really doing this again? She has a lovely voice, and is a great artist, but this doesn’t stretch her star-quality one iota.
Winning The X Factor and managing to keep a career going this long is quite a feat considering the average lifespan is approximately a Christmas Number 1 and that’s it. That said, churning out the same music as she did originally is not going to expand her market base. This track shows she hasn’t grown or changed as an artist since winning, and we are disappointed that she is still sticking to the safe option.
‘Lovebird’ is a good song if you’re into emotive ballads that use allegorical references to past lovers – the vocals and music are generally on point for that genre. Leona has a niche in the market for this kind of music, and she wouldn’t keep producing it if there was no fanbase to go with it. But Mariah Carey she is not, and unfortunately the time of the diva is passing as goddesses of shock-and-politics rampage the music scene.
We would never ask Leona to don a meat dress or compromise her innocence by including positive messages for the legions of fans who are crazy for her, but something needs shaking up. Maybe she should work with the Scissor Sisters or ask Ozzy Osborne for lyrics to her next track? Something needs to be injected to energise her act, because grace and loveliness are unfortunately a dying art.
‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ by Taylor Swift (Rating: ****)
Reviewed by Ben Egan
Taylor Swift seems pretty unstoppable recently. Love or hate her, you can’t deny her success. Hitting the top spot in the UK for the first time, her latest album, Red, is a poppier offering than previous albums and you also can’t seem to get away from the infamous ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’. But with promotional single after promotional single being released from Miss Swift, does she have another hit on her hands with her new release, ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’?
In a word, yes. Arguably equally as catchy as her last offering, Swift has cut the cheese out and added a seriously brilliant, dub-influenced chorus. The single may be still rather radio friendly but that shouldn’t knock the effort. Taylor’s sharp lyrics and impressive vocals need to be noted here too, as she steps far away from her traditional country roots. Instead she is seducing the listener over a mixture of acoustic guitars, grimy beats and some of the best break-up lines for a while.
The change is a pleasant one from Swift, and the offering will surely allow her to spread her talented wings even further. Credit should also be given for the single’s original sound yet chart-topping appeal.
‘Is This Love’ by Maya von Doll (Rating: ** )
Reviewed by Ben Kelly.
Following the break up of her band, Soho Dolls, Maya von Doll went on to write most of Nicola Roberts’ solo album. Now, however, she is experimenting with various international producers, including the German duo Robs & Duke who created her new single, ‘Is This Love’, which is a precursor to the album she’s working on. It’s pure electro-pop, with some very dubious lyrics – ‘If I could wear my heart right now for all the world to see / it would be a fashion fail without a trick left up my sleeve’. There’s nothing like an extended metaphor.
The chorus is slightly monotonous, which serves the dance element well, but it doesn’t tick the pop crossover box. Maya’s voice isn’t strong, and she doesn’t own this track. She barely sounds like a featured act, let alone a newly revised solo artist. The production is stronger, and whilst it’s much more edgy and European than current commercial tracks, like those by Calvin Harris, it still harks back to classic club tracks and earlier dance eras.
Maya is very much an underground act and has said she enjoys bringing some of that to the pop world with her co-writes. Considering how unapologetically anti-mainstream ‘Is This Love’ is, it’s therefore probably just the way she wants it.
‘This Kiss’ by Carly Rae Jepsen (Rating: ***)
Reviewed by: Scott McMullan
After the whirlwind success of Miss Jepsen’s ‘Call Me Maybe’ we had high hopes that her latest track would deliver the same infectious quality that made her previous single a monster summer hit. Sadly, we were left a little disappointed by ‘This Kiss’, which was rather weak by comparison. That being said, her latest offering is certainly not lacking in charm and is still all set to be a firm fan-favourite in next to no time.
There is a lot here to love. In a departure from the cute-pop theme enjoyed by ‘Call Me Maybe’, Jepsen’s new single has a heavier beat which immediately sets it apart. This is more of a dance floor track, and the dominant beat gives it a more incandescent and adult feel. Unfortunately the music does not always feel like it matches up with the vocals on offer, and the 27-year old singer’s voice seems a bit too soft and sweet to complement the stronger tempo.
Lyrically, ‘This Kiss’ is a little sub-standard. The words come across as forced and more than a little bit derivative. They feel more like filler to put together with the music, rather than standing successfully in their own right. Considering the more poetic and interesting feel of Carly Rae Jepsen’s previous work it’s sad to see that lightning has not struck twice.
Altogether the track is good, and some would even call it nice. However, the problem is that this song will always be compared to Jepsen’s earlier, stronger music which leaves ‘This Kiss’ feeling like it could have been a lot better.