Leona Louise Lewis (born 3 April 1985) is a British singer–songwriter. Lewis was a contestant in third series of the British television series The X Factor, which she won.
Lewis is a multi-platinum selling artist and three time Grammy Award nominee. Her most successful single, “Bleeding Love”, reached number one in over thirty countries around the world. She was proclaimed ‘Top New Artist’ by Billboard magazine in 2008. Lewis has released two albums to date, Spirit and Echo, in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Spirit became the fastest-selling debut album and the biggest seller of 2007 in both the United Kingdom and Ireland, and made Lewis the first British solo artist to top the Billboard 200 with a debut album. It has sold over 6.5 million copies worldwide.
Lewis’s debut single “A Moment Like This” became the fastest selling UK single after being downloaded over 50,000 times within thirty minutes of its release. In November 2008 she set a record in the UK for the fastest selling download-only release with her cover version of the Snow Patrol song “Run” which sold 69,244 copies in two days. Lewis’s debut tour, The Labyrinth, took place in 2010.
Lewis was born in the London Borough of Islington, to Aural Josiah “Joe” Lewis of Afro-Guyanese descent, and Maria Lewis of Welsh, Italian and Irish descent. Her parents enrolled her at the Sylvia Young Theatre School, and from there she attended the Italia Conti Academy and the BRIT School, where she learned to play instruments such as the guitar and piano, in the hope of becoming a singer-songwriter. Lewis wrote her first full-length song at the age of 12. She initially trained in opera, but went on to singing jazz and blues, eventually leading to popular music, citing Minnie Riperton, Eva Cassidy and Stevie Wonder as her main influences. After leaving the BRIT School at 17, she took a number of jobs to fund studio time, recording a demo album called Twilight. The album, almost exclusively comprising her own compositions, was recorded under Spiral Music, a production company based in Fulham. “I tried to secure a record deal by doing things my own way. I worked very hard but I never managed to land a contract”, said Lewis. Other demos were recorded under licence from UEG Entertainment, later included on an album called Best Kept Secret. However, none of Lewis’s demos were released and she considered taking a hiatus from her music career to attend university until her boyfriend persuaded her to enter The X Factor which subsequently severed her connections with UEG.
Lewis auditioned for the third series of The X Factor in 2006, singing “Over the Rainbow”. She was mentored by Simon Cowell and was announced the winner on 16 December 2006, winning a £1 million recording contract.
Her debut single, a cover of Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This”, was released on CD on 20 December 2006, and was available as adigital download from midnight on 17 December. It broke a world record after it was downloaded 50,000 times in thirty minutes. On 24 December, “A Moment Like This” was crowned the 2006 UK Christmas number-one single, having sold 571,253 copies, outselling the rest of the Top 40′s sales combined. The single became the most downloaded song in 2006; it stayed at number one for four weeks and stayed at the top spot in the Irish Singles Chart for six weeks.
2007–2009: Spirit and international breakthrough
In February 2007, Lewis signed a £5 million ($9.7 million) five-album contract in the United States with Clive Davis’s record label, J Records, and showcased for several American music executives. A press release was sent out revealing that Cowell and Davis would work together in a first-of-its-kind partnership on both the song and producer selection for Lewis’s debut album, entitled Spirit. Lewis recorded tracks for the album in London, Miami, Los Angeles, New York City, and Atlanta, where she worked with several songwriters and record producers including Dallas Austin, Walter Afanasieff, Salaam Remi, Steve Mac, Stargate and Ne-Yo. It was released in November 2007 and entered both the Irish Albums Chart and the UK Albums Chart at number one, becoming the fastest-selling debut album in both countries, and the United Kingdom’s fourth fastest selling album of all time. It was released in several other nations in January 2008, and went to number one in New Zealand, Australia, Austria, Germany, South Africa and Switzerland. Two further tracks were recorded in 2008 for the US release of the album: “Forgive Me”, produced by Akon, and “Misses Glass”, produced by Madd Scientist. It was released in the United States in April 2008 and entered the Billboard 200 at number one, making Lewis the first British artist to reach number one with a debut album. A special edition of Spirit was re-released in November 2008 in Europe, including the songs “Forgive Me”, “Misses Glass” and a cover of the Snow Patrol song “Run”. The album again went to number one in the UK Albums Chart. To date the album has sold over 6.5 million copies worldwide and has a 9× platinum certification in the UK.
Leona Lewis performing at the Clive Davis Pre Grammy Gala in 2009
Lewis’s second single, “Bleeding Love”, produced by Ryan Tedder and written by Tedder and Jesse McCartney, was released in October 2007 in the UK, where it sold 218,805 copies in its first week, giving it the biggest first-week sales of 2007 to date. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number one, where it stayed for seven weeks, and in the Irish Singles Chart it remained at number one for eight weeks. It reached number one in the singles charts of New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, The Netherlands, Austria, Canada and the United States. “Bleeding Love” won The Record of the Year in December 2007. In February 2008, “Bleeding Love” entered the Billboard Hot 100 at number 85 and then went on to peak at number one for four non-consecutive weeks. The song became the first track by a UK female to reach number one since Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in 1987. Lewis’s third single, a double A-side featuring “Better in Time” and “Footprints in the Sand”, was released in the United Kingdom in March 2008, in aid ofSport Relief, and she visited South Africa for the charity. The single reached a peak of number two in the UK singles chart selling over 40,000 copies in its first week of physical release. “Better in Time” was released as Lewis’s second single in the US, where it peaked at number 11 in the Billboard Hot 100.”Forgive Me” was released as Lewis’s fifth single in November 2008; it reached number five in the UK. ”Run” was released as a download-only single in the UK, reaching number one, and becoming the UK’s fastest-selling download-only single with 69,244 copies sold in two days. Lewis’s last single from Spirit, “I Will Be”, was released in January 2009, only in North America; it peaked at number 66 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In August 2008, she performed “Whole Lotta Love” with guitarist Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin at the 2008 Summer Olympics closing ceremony in Beijing, representing the handover to London as the host of the 2012 Summer Olympics. In September 2008, she joined several female singers to perform a single for the anti-cancer campaign Stand Up to Cancer. The single, titled “Just Stand Up!”, was performed live during the one-hour telethon that aired on all major US television networks. Lewis received three nominations for the 51st Grammy Awards in December 2008. “Bleeding Love” was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance andSpirit was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album. She was nominated for four BRIT Awards, in the categories British Female Solo Artist, British Breakthrough Act, British Album for Spirit, and British Single for “Bleeding Love”, but despite being the favourite to win the most awards, she received none. She won two awards at the 2008 MOBO Awards: Best Album for Spirit and Best Video for “Bleeding Love”. In December 2008 Lewis was named ‘Top New Artist’ by Billboard magazine.
2009–2010: Echo and The Labyrinth
Lewis’s second album, Echo, was given a worldwide release in November 2009. Production took place throughout 2009, including work with Ryan Tedder, Justin Timberlake, Max Martin, Arnthor Birgisson, Kevin Rudolf, and John Shanks. It was recorded in Los Angeles and took nine months to produce. Lewis described the album as “more guitar-driven” compared to Spirit. Lewis performed her first full UK show at the Hackney Empire in London on 2 November 2009, performing songs from Spirit and Echo. Echoreached number one in the UK Albums Chart and the top ten of Austria, Ireland and Switzerland.
Despite previous attempts from Lewis’s lawyers to ban the release of Best Kept Secret by UEG Music, claiming that the singer had not given her consent, the album was released in January 2009 when the label insisted it owned the rights to the music and Lewis would receive a 50% share of the album’s profits. However, a television advert for the album was banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, who said in a statement: “We considered that the claim ‘Leona Lewis’s new album’ misleadingly implied it was the singer’s latest recording rather than a new CD of tracks recorded some years ago.” The album was released to iTunes in standard and deluxe editions, and two EPs, “Private Party” and “Dip Down”/”Joy”, were released in September 2009.
The first single released from Echo was “Happy”, which was written by Lewis, Tedder and Evan Bogart and produced by Tedder. The single was released on 15 September 2009, peaking at number two in the UK, and reaching the top ten in Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Japan and Switzerland. Lewis also recorded the theme song for the 2009 science fiction film Avatar, directed by James Cameron. The song, “I See You (Theme from Avatar)”, was written by James Horner and Simon Franglen. It was nominated for Best Original Song at the 67th Golden Globe Awards. In January 2010, Lewis provided vocals on a cover of “Everybody Hurts”, released to help raise money for victims of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The second single from Echo, “I Got You”, was released in February 2010. The song “My Hands” was used as the theme song for Final Fantasy XIII In April 2010, she featured on a duet with Italian singer Biagio Antonacci, called “Inaspettata (Unexpected)”, from his album Inaspettata. They performed the song on the Italian TV show Io Cantoon 22 October 2010.
Lewis performed a 13-piece set list at the Rock in Rio festival in Lisbon, Portugal, on 22 May 2010, including songs from Spirit and Echo. Her first tour, titled The Labyrinth supporting Spirit and Echo, started in May 2010, with a theme based on the film Labyrinth. Lewis was scheduled to tour North America from July to August 2010 supportingChristina Aguilera’s Bionic Tour, however, Aguilera postponed the tour until 2011, leaving Lewis’s plans unknown. A DVD of the tour, along with a ten-track CD, was released with the title The Labyrinth Tour Live from The O2 on 29 November 2010.
2010–present: Third album
Lewis began working on her third album after the Labyrinth tour. She said the album would be “a bit different from what people have heard from me before,” adding that she plans to “go in and create and just see what happens.”MTV reported that Ne-Yo is writing material for the album. She is also working again with Dallas Austin and Ryan Tedder,and has recorded a song with David Guetta. Hurts and Jessie J have also been asked to write material for the album. It has been reported that Cowell has set a deadline for the album for summer 2011 release. A lead single will be released in early 2011. In February 2011 it was reported that Lewis’s third album had taken a dubstep direction, with Syco asking songwriters to submit dance songs and no ballads.