Lianne La Havas - Is Your Love Big Enough Album Review
A conveyor belt it may be but, as Adele has found to her perpetual benefit, we British are suckers for a song. The voices may change, but the millions of dewy-eyed talent show watchers are perpetually tuning in because nothing douses us all in delirious pathos more than a tune which begs to be shouted into hairbrushes across the nation.
Lianne La Havas reportedly considered joining that circus, but it's plain that Is Your Love Big Enough isn't the record she would've made under the star-making tutelage of Cowell et al. You imagine it having already reached the upper echelons of the charts is therefore both a happy fact and vindication of steering the unfashionable, patient course; as a result of this decision, its virtues are many and experience suggests that her career is likely to be significantly longer for it.
Barely a review will have been written without reference to the top of the female solo artist tree, a field which now appears to have opened up again due to circumstances tragic and happy for the Winehouse and Adkins families respectively. Add to this the fragile and understandably tentative return of Corinne Bailey Rae and the decision to avoid anything with a panel of doe-eyed inquisitors appears even more perceptive by the month.
First and foremost, it's a remarkably accomplished effort for a début, although in an era where music is routinely buffed to an anthracite shine, it's a relief to discover that there are occasional rough edges amongst it's mostly Radio 2 mantle. Leaning far more heavily on jazz, folk and soul ingredients than deft programming, Is Your Love Big Enough therefore steers wisely clear of most of the rest of a congested field. Age is lyrically a wry reflection on the vanity of seeing yourself reflected in the eyes of your lover, played out over little more than a few guitar chords and with the singer's willingly naïve pipes filling up the extra space. A similarly airy Brio haunts Au Cinema as well, but underneath the slight guitar and expertly practised harmonies so evocative of lazy summer afternoons, a slightly darker feeling lurks.
Intriguingly, although this is a place where there are few stones left to be turned over from a writing perspective, Lianne La Havas seems to have selected a raft of consciously downbeat characters. The words of Lost & Found reveal an anti-heroine emotionally manipulated - 'You broke me/ And taught me/ to truly hate myself' - and yet it's deeply soulful roots have an inner warmth which helps avoid any over tones of self-pity. Elsewhere, on the plaintive but supremely effective flamenco touched duet No Room For Doubt, the entwined couple (improbably, Willy Mason is the protagonist) are lovingly aware of each other's shortcomings; 'We all make mistakes, we do/ I learned from you'.
Endorsed by a string of jaw dropping advocates - try Prince and Stevie Wonder for starters - here, the Londoner pulls off the admirably neat trick of straddling the fine line between accessibility and introspection, the album's depth a testament to making fewer compromises. This principled approach means that Latin tinged Forget shuffles anxiously, whilst Gone is a piano and pencil spot throwback to when late night clubs were still smoky, with the singer delivering a spine tingling evocation of the honey-and-barb tones of Whitney Houston at her pre-addiction apex.
No sooner will the dust have settled than label executives will be pointing westward in the hope of replicating the monstrous success of 21. We can sleep safely in the knowledge that Is Your Love Big Enough contains too few iconic moments to achieve that ubiquity; not that this represents anything La Havas should be in the least bit defensive about. The difficult second album syndrome will doubtless come but, for now, it's time to enjoy the simple pleasure of an artist who had the strength of conviction to know she was the best judge of her own talent.
Lianne La Havas Website -