Leona Lewis' 'Happy': Just because it'll be a smash doesn't mean I have to love it

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?

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Comments (136 total) Add your comment
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  • Hannah

    No wonder Cowell is so in love with her – she sounds like she was lifted directly from the mid-90s pop charts. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Ed

    I agree. Though I really enjoyed “Bleeding “Love,” “Happy” is a bit boring.

  • Mark

    Correction to your article:

    co-written by Leona, Ryan Tedder, and Evan Bogart.

  • JP

    I still think that “Bleeding Love” is a great song, but I didn’t enjoy “Happy” that much. It has all the right parts but it doesn’t quite come together for me.

  • archuletafansgermany

    Dude, agreed, I like Leona, but this song bores me. Oh, btw, though: totally your loss that you don’t want any Archuleta on your ipod. Just saying. :P

    • Sally in Chicago

      She does nothing for the song.

    • Preston

      I didn’t like your quip of not having Ruben Studdard, David Archuleta and Daughtry on your Ipod. I like these artists on their own in their free-standing recording careers. I look past what they did on TV. I like to think forward with these singers. I don’t even put that former- so-and-so stigma on them when I mention their names. All of them are good to me and even David’s first pop album was solid.

  • Myolie

    The problem with this is that it sounds like a Mariah song and there’s only one Mariah. Leona Lewis needs to find her own identity, and I honestly don’t know why people think it’s a guaranteed smash. It’s okay.

  • Sonia

    You don’t have Daughtry on your iPOD? You don’t like Daughtry?!?!?!
    This is blasphemy…

    • fancypants

      i thought slezak liked daughtry….maybe only on AI, but not as a recording artist.

  • Nat

    Slezak, I think we might be soulmates. I always seem to be agreeing with you (actually, not about Daughtry…I <3 him). I've always found Leona Lewis mind-numbingly dull…it's not that she's a horrible person, I just find her music so oversung and unoriginal.

    • Sally in Chicago

      Strange, but I hear Jordin Sparks in this song too. All these “idol” winners are sounding the same to me.

  • Cunegonde

    Not a bad song. If this was sung by an unknown singer, it would have been a breakout single. But since this is Leona bleeding Lewis, then there are expectations. I am not a huge fan of Leona but I like her shy persona. I don’t think Whitney should attempt the high notes in this song though. On a totally different note, I wonder how this song will be deconstructed by someone like Patty Griffin or Chan Marshall.

  • Ellie

    I agree with you Michael. I never understood all the hype surrounding Leona Lewis. And the fact that Simon Cowell likes her, explains why he likes style over substance; just look at some of his faves from American Idol.

  • anonymous

    Leona Lewis has a great voice, but her songs aren’t always good. I like Better in Time very much, but couldn’t stand Bleeding Love.

    • BSF

      completely agree!

      • gerry

        i was about to say the same thing-seems like “Better In Time” was the only really masterpiece single of hers-other than that, there never was. i agree with you, the same boringness

  • Kristina

    Personally, I think it sucks. She sounds great, the song is just bad.

  • Ryan

    Yesss I agree! My friend and I have always thought she was emotionless. Never got the appeal of Bleeding Love. I laughed out loud the first time I heard the lyrics.

  • RockOutSF

    Not a huge fan of Leona. I have been wanting to like her more, since she has a good voice, some good songs, and seems like a nice person. This song might grow on me over time. I agree though, that Leona lacks some depth, soul, something. I can’t quite put my finger on it. You know that criticism that Simon made about one of Kris Allen’s performance – something like sugar water, not much there? Yeah, maybe that.

    • LindaT

      Simon said that Kris Allen’s performance of “Come Together” was “like eating ice for lunch, meaning it will leave you with nothing to remember afterward”.
      Actually, that’s how I felt about “Happy” — it’s just boring and over-produced. And I agree, Leona needs to develop some feeling and depth of emotion when she sings.

  • Bill

    Did MS just say Whitney Houston has emotional depth? On which planet? The woman can sing (or at least, she could back in the day) but I never felt like she really connected to the lyrics of any of her songs. The woman smiles through every song, no matter the subject.

    • k

      Yes! But really that big power ballad type singing never has any depth. Take it (or leave it) for what it is.

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