Debut album hints at La Havas’ emerging talent

Published 5:14 pm Saturday, August 4, 2012

There’s no shortage lately of young female pop singers with powerful voices.

The latest is Lianne La Havas, a 22-year-old London native whose debut album, “Is Your Love Big Enough,” shows plenty of promise.

The album is hard to turn off or turn down when La Havas allows her voice to open up, like she does briefly on title track “Is Your Love Big Enough?” — perhaps the most poppy song on the album.

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For La Havas, her musical peaks are subtle, with enticing tracks like “Au Cinema” unfolding through her relaxed, yet powerful vocals.

“No Room for Doubt” is another song that is beautifully simple, with a La Havas singing a duet with a male singer over a quiet, strumming guitar. The song peaks with the two singing together the repeated lines “We all make mistakes / we do / learn from you.”

La Havas’ voice is comparable to other female stars like Alicia Keys or Norah Jones, but it isn’t quite as honed as those veterans. However, she rarely uses her voice to bellow through a song, which is a testament to her musical maturity.

However, that leads to the sense that she’s holding something back on each song — that there’s another level just within reach.

As a whole, the album is understated compared to what listeners are used to. Take a song like Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” Adele’s voice explodes at full volume on the chorus. For La Havas, she never opens up in a comparable way. You can’t help but think there’s something held back.

When it works, like on “Au Cinema,” the music is as dynamic and alluring as artists like Adele. But the consistency — and perhaps the confidence — isn’t quite there.