Will Leona Lewis Last?

I feel emotionally drained. I have spent the weekend reviewing the various recordings on the net of Leona Lewis’s performance on the X-Factor, and trying to find out why by the time we reached the final I thought she should win.

Leona started as quite an ordinary contestant, but as time progressed she made more and more of an impact on me. Looking back on the performances, “Summer Time” on week 3 was the first time that I really felt she was something special. Week 4 (Chiquitita) was good but not brilliant, but again week 5 and “Sorry seems to be the hardest word” and she had captured my heart strings again. And what followed from there just got better and better.

I am really a sucker for the powerful high note.

This short passage from the song “All by myself” ,her third song of the final, shows exactly clinched it for me (and I think was actually what Simon Cowell was refering to when he said that that high note might just have won her the X-Factor). I clearly was not alone. I found Leona’s High Notes on youtube which shows off this area of her talent. Take a look. But beware, the continued tugging on your emotions as each song hits its climax can make you exhausted.

But will she last? The last time I felt like this about a singer was Alex Parks in Fame Acedemy – back in 2003 (I think). I still remember her rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” in the final. And yet Alex has disappeared without trace. I checked back into my archives for my recordings of that performance and I have to say that, when comparing it with Leona in full flow, Alex’s performance was fairly tame. And in reality, Alex Parks was much less my cup of tea, I liked Caroline Goode as much.

I have converted all Leona’s live songs from the tv clips to play (just) the sound on my portable music player. I find these still have the excitement of the original TV performances, so to my mind the quality of her first album will be the real indication of her long term appeal. I hope that she that she recreates some of the buzz of her live performances. If she does I will be hooked and I expect so will others. I wish her the best for a long term future at superstar level.

UPDATE 24th January 2007. The performance of Somewhere over the Rainbow is now my favourite. With a little digging, you can find the the Eva Cassidy version, which defines the phrasing that Leona uses. But what is even more poignant is when you realise that Eva Cassidy died of bone marrow cancer, and that Leona sung this song initially at the funeral of her cousin who also died of cancer. The fact that Leona is dedicating her performance on the X-Factor to her cousin allows you to understand the emotional stress she must have been under when she did the performance, and why, I think, Simon Cowell made the comment he did about why this was the best performance he had ever witnessed across all the shows he judges. What is clear is that Leona takes the quality of her performance on slow quiet sections to another level. I have moist eyes at the end of each viewing of the performance.

UPDATE 19th April 2020 As I rebuild this web site for its next iteration I can point out that all Leona’s x-factor performances are available on this page.