I could come up with a long list of British singers and brilliant love numbers that could put their equally talented American counterpart to shame; but I won’t. Fact is, the Brits are conquering the love game and they’re doing it right – with soulfully good productions; some with ethereal voice many Idols can’t match; and most importantly they are lyrically heartfelt and pure making the connection with listeners even more impactful.
Adding to the pool of talented British crooners with love record as her introductory bet is 22-year-old London-born singer-songwriter Lianne La Havas ‘s Is Your Love Big Enough offers an all-round universal theme of love, produced in a well-arranged narrative about the ups and downs of relationships while reflecting the ever-complicated matters of the heart.
The album to me is like a staged musical – as the curtains draw open, solid vocal harmonies resembling a full-sound gospel choir come into play with La Havas taking center stage – dramatically singing introductory verses of the song “Don’t Wake Me Up” in a cappella before background music starts kicking in with the bass and drum pumping slowly, grooving into the song giving the jazzy-gospel opening track a trip-hop feel. The song marks the beginning of her hopeless love. She has fallen for him and she’s willing to give her all as she sings, ‘The only true love I have ever known / Into yours my life has been thrown.’
However, her devotion was not worthwhile. The man is nothing but a bad influence as the emotional piano-driven ballad “Lost and Found” captures her heartbreak moment. Her heart was severely hurt as she sings in regret, ‘You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself / unfold me and teach me how to be like somebody else.’ In this song, La Havas’ inviting and soulful vocal shimmers and one thing for sure, ballad is indeed her thing. La Havas’ heart-wrenching performance in “Lost and Found” is at its truest, I could feel my heart wrenched along with it. Contextually different and though both Adele and herself are nothing alike, this song could be her very own “Someone Like You”. If done right, she could be a pop titan in the making.
But no, she won’t be that typical star you have in mind and in jazz-heavy Paris chic “Au Cinéma” she proves exactly so. In it, she reminisces the good times she had with her ex-lover but she insists to keep going. In her sweet and intimate voice, La Havas sings ‘There’s a thirst in her eyes and her heart / though she thinks to look back / she won’t,’ before repeating, ‘There’s no pause / no rewind.’
The second half of the album begins with “Forget,” (co-produced by TV On the Radio’s Dave Sitek) another full-sound trip-hop-influenced dance-y number about a woman’s anger after a break up. As La Havas sings her way into the song, screaming in angst as she gets into the chorus; for a second I thought Beyonce have come running onto the stage shoving La Havas aside like a bitchy antagonist. And I’m not kidding.
The four tracks that follow are equally flawless. In “Elusive,” she does justice to fellow Brit’s Scott Matthews’ number giving the already brilliant acoustic song an eclectic folk soul feel to it. Next comes “Everything Everything,” an intimate and soothing song about/for her truest love… her everything. She let herself loose and croons, ‘I’ve never known another love / Who looks at me the way you do / And sees the light / The dark / The truth.’
As a fan of emotional love songs that speaks right through the heart, I found comfort in the album’s sincere melancholic moments. It’s not only the highly relatable lyrics and La Havas strong vocal that I’m hooked to; it’s also the fusion of musical genres that it has managed to arrange together seamlessly. I have to give credits to producer Matt Hales’ (aka Aqualung) songwriting talent and skills have created that fuller sound and variety the album needs to fully deliver as a solid record. It has come by no surprise if the folky and adult alternative pop sound mixture to La Havas’ jazz-soul tune is the result of Hales’ musical magic.
Back to my earlier question, what’s really up with British chanteuses and their affection and great talent in writing and delivering soulful love songs? Do the Brits really have the talent to write unconditional love songs that speak directly to your sensitive heart? Do they live or love differently than those in America, Russia or even Malaysia? Or perhaps it’s only coincident that nationality factor comes into picture? The truth is I don’t really have the answer. All I know for sure is that love is too subjective a subject matter that only the truest lover could purely deliver.