Leona Lewis I Am

Leona Lewis I Am
5
While British singer-songwriter Leona Lewis states that her professional split with Simon Cowell's record label was "amicable," one has to wonder. After winning the UK music competition The X Factor back in 2006 and working with Cowell to put out polished ballads like "Bleeding Love," her sound and image came off factory-made — a consequence of excessive industry micromanagement. So here we are, with Lewis on her own and presumably more in charge of her artistic direction than ever.
 
The ten-track I Am, however, feels "the more things change the more they seem the same." Lewis' four-octave range voice is powerful yet unassuming, so tracks like the hard-charging "Thunder" and "Thank You" are pleasant enough but aren't mind-blowing. The requisite Diane Warren power ballad, "You Knew Me When," is solid but feels overcooked, while "The Essence of Me" sounds just as trite as the title.
 
On the bright side, the appropriately titled "Another Love Song" is an EDM-styled ditty with cute pan percussion, and is a remix away from dominating airwaves, but overall, I Am comes off a tad rote. Props to the talented Lewis for the new career direction, but here's hoping her next project kicks things up a notch. This one is a bit of a disappointment. (Universal)