ALBUM: Is Your Love Big Enough?

ARTIST: Lianne La Havas

Album release date:  July 6, 2012

A Sincere, Composed, Feminine Soul

I love old-fashioned, simple people. People with soul, people who have been broken and put back together. Honest people, tender people. People who tell stories that most everyone can find common ground with. People who have let suffering carve their insides out so as to make their capacity for compassion that much deeper and wider. I’ve come to cherish such people more the older I become, because I increasingly realize just how hard they are to come by. I wish to learn from such people in order to become more like them.

The music of Lianne La Havas brought me back into a time and place where such honest folk were more common: a time when music and song expressed sentiment in a manner both straightforward and modest, and when singers knew the power of self-control in the mastering of their instrument. Is Your Love Big Enough is the British singer’s debut album, released in 2012 when she was just 22-years-old. It is an impressive journey through several decades of genres and styles, deftly brought back to life by a young woman whose voice and poetry reveal a sensitive, proudly feminine soul who’s allowing herself to be affected by both the joys and sorrows of life and love, and who isn’t afraid to use the gifts she’s been given.

Ahead of the Game

La Havas is not especially well-known in the States, and her success in Europe has been modest in comparison to other powerhouse women in her genre: Adele, Corinne Bailey Rae, Elle Goulding, Amy Winehouse come to mind. As I listened to her album, I became increasingly stunned at the beauty and range of her musicality, and increasingly surprised that she hasn’t far outstripped her musical peers: she is easily as talented as the best of them, and certainly more heartfelt and womanly (we need more of that in our hardened world). Funk, soul, jazz, pop, rock, and folk all have a turn on this album: and Lianne’s voice, which is her greatest strength, handles all with aplomb. At turns bluesy and sultry, hushed and fragile, roaring and unfettered, this girl’s pipes are a one-of-a-kind, lovingly crafted instrument that allow her to get away with some gutsy and random twists and turns. Her phraseology is reminiscent of the likes of Nat King Cole, Ella, Edith Piaf, Feist, Diana Krall, and Paolo Nutini (it really is that expansive): but her sound truly is her own. Somehow, even with the rich and mellifluous movement of her voice, an unexpected element  shines through that strikes me as being unique to her: a certain purity and femininity that one is hard-pressed to find in the smoky bars and lounges such sultry music is typically associated with.

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A Dash of Color, Class, & Warmth

For all the wisdom, definition, and experience expressed in her voice, Lianne’s tender years and ego come through in her lyrics. They’re not what you’d call, well, profound, for the most part. They skirt around some angsty topics that could go deep – lover’s quarrels, the ephemerality of passion and emotion, dissatisfaction borne out of uncommitted intimacy – but most come off sounding adolescent rather than self-aware. Even with that, though, Lianne’s sincerity remains: or at least, her phrasing makes her sound heartbreakingly earnest, even when singing about a vague indignance over some blockheaded bloke. Granted, several songs boast a grasp of language and lyric that I wish she’d allowed to inform all of these songs: Lost and Found is one of the saddest songs I’ve heard, and it reveals a deeper sense of self-knowledge and regret than any of the rest; and Age is a witty, humorous tune about being pursued by an older gentleman who’s more aware of the gem in front of him than his younger competition. No Room For Doubt is simple, dreamy, and captivating: its sparse lines have been trapped in my head for weeks.

La Havas is a burgeoning talent – a dash of color, class, and warmth against a dulled, over-sexed, tired landscape. I’ve yet to hear her latest album, Blood, released this year: but if it’s any fuller expression of the great talents expressed on her debut work, then it is bound to be lights out. Next time you have a drive ahead of you, pop in Is Your Love Big Enough? and let Lianne’s honey voice embrace you with its gentleness, strength, and old-fashioned sincerity.

Alanna-Marie Boudreau
Alanna Boudreau

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Alanna Boudreau is a writer, speaker, lyricist, pianist, and guitar player. She has recorded and produced five albums and lives near Philadelphia.