One line perfectly sums up Leona Lewis’s fifth full-length album and first for Island Records, I Am—out September 11, 2015. On the single “Thunder,” she declares, “I’m coming back with the thunder,” and there couldn’t be a more apropos metaphor for her latest body of work. That instantly recognizable voice is certainly a force of nature in its own right. It’s what solidified her as the “best-selling act to emerge from The X Factor,” garnered her a staggering total of seven BRIT Award nominations and three Grammy Award nominations, and made the quadruple-platinum “Bleeding Love” the “best-selling digital song of 2015.” Among many accolades, she made history stateside by becoming the “First UK female solo artist to debut at #1 on the Billboard Top 200,” while the critically celebrated singer-songwriter’s worldwide sales surpass 20 million albums to date. Legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page even described performing with her at the London Ceremony for the Beijing Olympics as his “career high.” Never content to creatively stay in one place, Leona set a course for her next evolution following 2013’s holiday release, Christmas, with Love. Parting ways with longtime label SYCO/RCA Records, she took a minute to gain her creative footing. With a little help from Stevie Nicks, Leona saw her destination clearly. “Stevie hugged me and started singing ‘Bleeding Love’,” she recalls. “She told me, ‘You have to keep going, we need you—we need your music.’ She won’t know what a huge impression she made on me and how much she inspired this record, but she did.” Galvanized by that endorsement from bona fide rock royalty, she re-teamed with Echo producer and collaborator Tony Gad (John Legend, Beyoncé) in Los Angeles. Everything started to flow naturally, and Leona embraced the spirit that defined her work since the beginning. She let that voice shine through in more ways than one—communicating with fans directly online with a viral open letter and baring her soul in the vocal booth. “I had to be really open,” she affirms. As a result, I Am is often as confessional as it is catchy. It’s the sound of an artist embracing what defines her and sharing it with the entire world. It’s also a rather lively celebration of life. The first track released, “Fire Under My Feet,” pairs her unmistakable delivery with a propulsive handclap and swinging keys. The song makes for an incendiary and infectious return with a soulful simmering bounce. “You can’t put out these flames. You can’t keep me down in my seat,” she assures. Back to “Thunder,” the first single sees her vocals resound over a slow burn of piano and percussion with an anthemic chant that’s impossible to shake. Elsewhere on the album, “Thank You” offers a heartfelt thanks to mom and dad, and the title track serves as her declaration of independence. I Am also marks her collaboration with the iconic Academy Award®-nominee and Grammy Award-winner Diane Warren on “You Knew Me When.” Previously, the songwriter has only penned music specifically for two artists—Cher and Whitney Houston. Now, Leona is certainly in good company. In tandem with the record’s release, she launched her “I Am Empowered” campaign. Across all social media platforms, she urges fans to post their own tales of personal triumph, inspiration, instances of paying it forward, and more using the hashtag #IAMEMPOWERED. That message is already spreading everywhere. In the end, Leona knows who she is on I Am. Girl’s got thunder, and she’s just started stirring up a storm.
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