Page last updated at 08:57 GMT, Friday, 7 November 2008

Leona rounds off an amazing year

Leona Lewis - Forgive Me

By Mark Savage
BBC News entertainment reporter

It is almost staggering how readily Leona Lewis has been accepted as a musical superstar.

Leona Lewis sings
Lewis beat Ray Quinn to win X Factor in 2006

Less than two years since the 23-year-old's X Factor win, she has cast off the shadow of her reality show beginnings and established herself as a world-class recording artist.

Partly, this is due to sheer force of will - Lewis's PR managers never waver from portraying her as the deserving equal of Madonna or Whitney (note that the surname is redundant for all three).

But what really distanced her from her pop peers was Bleeding Love, a worldwide number one powered by that voice.

After a show-stopping performance of the song at this year's Brits, even her detractors felt cheated when Lewis failed to win an award.

Listeners to Radio 1, however, discovered Lewis's secret a few months before, when she visited the station's "live lounge" to perform a cover of Snow Patrol's lighters-aloft anthem, Run.

Backed by a 14-piece band, the singer's slow-burning performance suddenly burst into a planet-sized, full colour crescendo.

"People did cry," wrote DJ Jo Whiley on her blog afterwards.

Lewis herself seems to have been impressed - recording a new studio version of the song for a special edition of her million-selling debut album, Spirit.

But, she admits, it can be a tricky number to perform live.

"You have to pull it back at the beginning, because at the end it goes crazy," she laughs.

"It's really hard to do that. You just have to control it."

Vocal control is the one thing that sets Lewis apart from her peers, who flit around melodies like butterflies, afraid to land on a note for anything longer than a semiquaver.

But despite her stage school background - she attended Italia Conti, Sylvia Young and the Brits school - Lewis maintains that her style is 99% intuition.

"I just sing how I feel it," she says. "If I feel like the song needs a bit of colour, I'll do that."

No dancing

The re-released version of Spirit includes several new tracks, including the star's new single, Forgive Me.

As it's Lewis's first uptempo single, the video gives her a chance to break out a big-budget song and dance spectacular.

"It's based on a whole load of different musicals, because I was in Carousel when I was six," she explains. "So we've got a massive merry-go-round in there.

"There's also West Side Story, and a Fosse interpretation, and we did Singing In The Rain."

Leona Lewis and Jimmy Page at the Olympics
They'd have to top that big old London bus. Jumping out of an aeroplane? Yeah, maybe!
Leona Lewis plans for the London Olympics in 2012
However, if you pay close attention, Lewis isn't actually dancing much at all, leaving all the hard work to her backing artists.

"I love dancing," she says defensively, "but I am a singer and that is what I do."

Surely she must have studied dance at school?

"I did. My mum was a ballet teacher, so I've always loved dance, and I liked doing classes and things like that - but not professionally."

Could this be a chink in Lewis's armour? Did she flunk her dance classes?

"Actually, I got an 'A' in music and in dance at the Brits," she giggles.

"But it was mostly theory."

If Lewis is somehow too tired to tango, it is probably because 2008 has been a whirlwind.

The star has appeared on Oprah, visited Africa for Comic Relief, played the MTV Asia Awards in Malaysia, and closed the Olympics in Beijing, duetting with Jimmy Page atop a London Routemaster Bus.

"My passport is crazy," she says. "I've got so many air miles, my family is flying free everywhere at the moment."

And have the Olympics organisers approached her about a repeat performance in 2012?

"I'm sure they're still putting stuff together for that - but I'd hope to be involved in some way."

"It'd have to be something new - they'd have to top that big old London bus. Jumping out of an aeroplane? Yeah, maybe!"

Down to earth

All of this activity explains why there is no new album this year - but Lewis has already started meeting with songwriters - Ryan Tedder, Claude Kelly, Adam Levine - for her next CD. A tour is set to follow in 2010.

For the meantime, however, fans will have to make do with the smattering of extra tracks on the deluxe edition of Spirit.

Leona Lewis
Lewis is backing Diana Vickers and Alexandra Burke in this year's X Factor
I suggest that it is a bit cheeky to expect people to pay twice for what is, essentially, the same album - but Lewis is well-prepared for this line of questioning.

"The new stuff will be available on iTunes as well if the fans just want the songs," she points out, before listing other reasons to buy the new version - including a behind-the-scenes DVD and "different artwork and packaging".

And what should people do with the album they bought last year?

"Keep it!" Lewis exclaims.

If this seems disingenuous, it is not intentional. Lewis is one of the most down-to-earth pop stars in the business.

She still lives in Hackney, so she can be close to her parents, watches X Factor - "I Sky Plus it" - and says high street chain Accessorise is her favourite place to buy jewellery.

Would she secretly like to bring home the couture gowns she gets to wear in magazines like Harper's Bazaar, though?

"Yeah, of course I would," she says, then pauses. "But I'd never wear them."

Forgive Me is out now. The deluxe edition of Spirit is released on 17 November by SonyBMG.

Print Sponsor

Leona Lewis booed at Mobo Awards
16 Oct 08 |  Entertainment
Leona Lewis up for US MTV award
05 Aug 08 |  Entertainment
Leona album smashes into US chart
17 Apr 08 |  Entertainment
Lewis makes footprints in States
15 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Singer Lewis grabs record debut
19 Nov 07 |  Entertainment
Talking Shop: Leona Lewis
23 Oct 07 |  Entertainment
Leona crowned winner of X Factor
17 Dec 06 |  Entertainment

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific