'Is Your Love Big Enough?'
Lianne La Havas
*** ½ stars
The love song is the most written and performed of all songs, a fact that encompasses most genres. It’s arguably the most popular with audiences. But it’s also a punching bag, often disparaged by critics and laymen alike for being an outpost of cheap sentiment, hackneyed emotionalism and just plain bad lyric writing. A quick look at current music charts reinforces that perspective.
Artists like 22-year-old Lianne La Havas, whose sublime debut CD, "Is Your Love Big Enough?," was released Tuesday, remind us of the power of the artful lyric, the soulful (nonhistrionic) reading of said lyric, and the importance of smart, understated production. London-based La Havas wrote or cowrote all the songs on the album except for her cover of Scott Matthews' "Elusive."
Whether it’s the aching “Lost & Found,” whose chorus is the tenderly sung “You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself / Unfold me, and teach me how to be like somebody else…,” or the breezily lilting first single “They Could Be Wrong,” in which La Havas shrugs off naysayers with a lovely affirmation of her lover (“The way you look when you’re sleeping, the way you breathe when you’re leaving / The way you smile when I’m speaking, I feel how clearly you see me…”) there’s a gorgeous heart beating at the core of her Sade-smooth, guitar-based soul-pop. And her duet with Willy Mason on “No Room for Doubt” is thrilling for being a pitch-perfect artistic match, not a collaboration conceived and forced by label marketing men. It’s one of the best duets in years.
This has already been a great year for women in music, and with "Is Your Love Big Enough?," Miss La Havas vaults right to the big leagues. Repeated listenings only prove how strong and artful this collection is.