If there’s one topic music has covered extensively it’s love. The word itself is thrown around in such a tawdry way within lyrically moribund pop songs that it ironically inspires hate. Nevertheless, Lianne La Havas exceptionally tackles all shades of the subject with raw emotion, poured candidly from the heart.
After signing to Warners in 2009, she found it hard to write while in a secure relationship but as things fell apart self-expression became a priority. Her formative years were influenced by strong female figures – Jill Scott’s debut, her mother’s Mary J. Blige tapes – and there’s a vocal resemblance to Eryka Badu, yet she’s a surprisingly submissive heroine lyrically.
In a sparse atmosphere punctuated by delicate string picking, the listener becomes a confidant, privy to details of her break-up and rediscovery of love. On opener ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’, she’s head-over-heels: “I’d take my life to stay in your bed”. Two songs later the illusion crashes down. Soft piano keys accompany an outpouring of despair: “You broke me and taught me to truly hate myself ”.
She’s not always so passive. ‘Forget’ begins with jagged strums of an electric guitar in an impassioned attack on the ex who tried to smooth things over with a love song. This venomous retaliation is the loudest riposte in an album otherwise mirroring personal vulnerability with musical subtlety. By releasing a debut with such honesty at its core Lianne will find a nation falling in love with her.
Words by SIMON BUTCHER