Leona Lewis: Echo


RIYL: Christina Aguilera, Whitney Houston, Kelly Clarkson

Leona Lewis has a beautiful voice – clear, strong, and remarkably non-susceptible to the sort of melismatic dicking around that far too many pop vocalists seem to think passes for singing. It’s the type of voice that begs to be dropped in front of a sympathetic band and some truly tremendous material, and using it to record synthetically produced, pleasantly anonymous pop songs is a little like bringing a cannon to a knife fight: a tremendous waste of perfectly good ammo. Of course, not every song can be a standard, but c’mon – Sony BMG is one of the biggest corporations on Earth, and they can definitely afford better material than the middle-of-the-road fluff Lewis is saddled with here. She’s definitely game – in fact, her voice rings so brightly that she almost manages to transcend the uniform ordinariness of the material – but the ultimate effect is never more than mindlessly entertaining. Which is probably precisely the point of an album that was clearly assembled with such an eye toward big-picture chart domination that the finer details – like finding great songs, for instance, or not lumping Lewis’ gourmet voice in with a duet partner as proudly, generically vanilla as OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder – were somehow forgotten. Echo is fine, for what it is – but like Lewis’ similarly pedestrian debut, it could have been much, much more. (RCA/19 2009)

Leona Lewis MySpace page

  

AskMen readers rank 99 Most Desirable Women, inadvertently create world’s worst playlist

Our friends at AskMen.com have unveiled their annual list of the Top 99 Most Desirable Women, as voted by their readers (who cast a staggering 10 million votes), and it is every bit the cornucopia of babeness that you’d expect it to be. We obviously can’t tell you who’s at the top of the list, but on a personal note, I was thrilled to see that my girl Anne Hathaway went Top Ten, even beating out smoking hot Brazilian model Alessandra Ambrosio to boot. Kristen Bell and Megan Fox made the top ten as well, and given the performance by the former in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and “Heroes,” and the performance by the latter’s stomach in “Transformers,” this should surprise no one.

Rihanna However, after a quick glance of the list, I realized something: for as oversexed as everything has gotten these days, rock babes are in disturbingly low supply. Only one singer made the top ten – yes, Scarlett Johannson made an album, but she doesn’t count – and it should surprise no one that it’s the girl that doesn’t go anywhere without her umbrella, ella, ella. From there, though, the pickings are slim. Christina Aguilera is at #35, and Miss Sasha Fierce (Beyoncé) is at #50. Really, #50? That’s the best she could do?

Being the site’s head music geek, I looked at the list of rock babes – and we admit that we use the word ‘rock’ loosely, as these women are all pop stars – and imagined someone assembling a mix of their music and only their music. Along with Rihanna, Beyoncé and Xtina, you can add Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger (#65), Jessica Simpson (#70), and, gulp, Britney Spears (#90). Aiiiiieeeeeeeee! That’s the iPod from hell, right there, though I do think “Umbrella” is a monster jam. Still, imagine going to a party, and all they played were the above artists. Admit it: you’d leave the party. However, if those women were all present at the party, you’d stay, which means that while the voters were asked to look beyond sex appeal and rank the women that have the qualities they would most like in a companion (intelligence, humor, character and ambition), it’s clear that when it comes to music, sex appeal is still driving the car, intelligence is in the back seat, and character is tied up in the trunk.

Katy Perry Ambition, however, is riding shotgun, which brings us to the singer at #32. Katy Perry. Now, if we’re just looking at photographs, I can see why guys would dig Katy Perry. She looks like the slutty third Deschanel sister, and talks about kissing girls, which is catnip to horny guys. There is just one small problem with her: she’s the phoniest phony in all of Phonyland, and a sorry excuse for a pop star. Add her to the party playlist and the people present at the party, and I’m leaving. Give me Kylie Minogue (just missed the cut, we’re told) over Perry any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Please, please give me Kylie Minogue.

The sad, unspoken part of all this is that the performance of women rockers on this list is certainly a ripple effect of how much we devalue music these days. Ten years ago, this list would be crawling with singers. Twenty years ago, there would have been more singers than actresses. Today, we get Katy Perry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine list of women overall – hard to argue with Keeley Hazell, after all – but the music fan in me feels like this list serves as a stinging indictment of how completely screwed up the music business is these days. Sigh.

To view AskMen’s list of the Top 99 Most Desirable Women, click here.

  

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