Leona Lewis used her big voice on big ballads like a battering ram to bust open America. Luckily, she didn't have to keep pounding, keep-keep pounding us. On "Echo" (J/SyCo), Lewis shows some subtlety and - gasp! - fun. "Love Letter" grooves like a Pink rocker. "Outta My Head" is up-tempo Europop, while her collaboration with Justin Timberlake, "Don't Let Me Down," reflects his recent Timbaland days. Yes, "Echo" is still too ballad-heavy, especially the droopy single "Happy," but, with Eastern tinges on "Brave" and the upper-register wails of "Breathe," she keeps it interesting.

LEONA LEWIS

"Echo"

THE GRADE B

BOTTOM LINE Finding life beyond big ballads

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>> BACKSTAGE PASS: Hear new music from 50 Cent, Leona Lewis, John Mayer and Norah Jones.

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