Breaking blasphemy alert: Leona Lewis’ voice has always left me a little cold. There, I said it. And while that might strike you as an odd sentiment coming from the EW staffer voted most likely to get excited about musical output of singers we discovered on the tee-vee, it is what it is. (And for the record, you won’t find any Daughtry or Archuleta or Ruben Studdard on my iPod, either.)
I know, I know, Simon Cowell wants us all to believe that Leona Lewis is the second coming of everything ever. And a lot of folks appeared to enjoy her 2007 smash “Bleeding Love.” So when news hit today that Lewis’s new single “Happy” (co-written by the ubiquitous Ryan Tedder and Evan Bogart, and currently streaming here) was leaking across the Internet, I said to myself, “Self, here’s your chance to get converted!” The thing is, thought, while “Happy” is a solidly written, professionally produced song with a Velcro-ey hook, it has the emotional resonance of a so-so, big-budget romantic comedy. Oh, sure, the strings are swelling, and the rain is pouring, and someone is racing to the airport to tell someone else “I love you!,” but when your leading lady is more Andie MacDowell than Meryl Streep, it’s hard to get past surface-level.
My colleague Henry Goldblatt just emailed me that “Happy” is “the song Whitney Houston should’ve recorded.” And that raises an interesting thought. Imagine Whitney’s weathered, world-weary (but still potent…in the studio) instrument delivering the “so what if it hurts me/ so what if I break down” refrain.
Oh hell to the yes, in the hands of a singer who could achieve both technical perfection and emotional depth, “Happy” might’ve been my early autumn jam. But delivered in Lewis’ lovely-but-vacant style, I’m gonna have to rifle through my iPod for a more substantial diva anthem. Beyonce’s “Halo”? Christina Aguilera’s “Hurt”? Maybe birthday girl Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up”? Oh so many to choose from up in here!
What do you think of “Happy”? Does Leona Lewis have another smash on her hands? And more importantly, are you digging it?
More from EW’s Music Mix:
The Beatles: Thanksgiving special coming to ABC?
‘New Moon’ soundtrack: Sneak peek at Death Cab for Cutie snippet
The Beatles: And their best song is…
Jason Schwartzman exclusive: Hear the theme song for his new HBO show here