You will forgive us, won’t you, if we don’t get too excited about the prospect of Lianne La Havas‘ debut album. We’ve been here before, after all, the promise of a female solo artist who will combine mainstream appeal with a genuine talent and credible edge. Admittedly, the Londoner has form, having impressed over a series of releases and obviously worked at her craft, yet we’ll still reserve judgement if it’s all the same with you.
Blimey though, Is Your Love Big Enough? doesn’t half start well. The trio of ‘Don’t Wake Me Up’, the title track and ‘Lost and Found’ do indeed reach that holy grail, stylish enough to reach a wider audience while maintaining a gritty, sometimes dark heart. We like. A lot. Skipping over the frankly poor ‘Au Cinema’ the good work continues with the excellent ‘No Room For Doubt’, complete with a hardly obvious turn from Willy Mason. Perhaps our cynicism was misguided and La Havas is the one after all.
Or perhaps not. Apart from all being excellent, what these tracks have in common is that they’re all taken from her existing releases. Indeed six out of the album’s twelve numbers are old songs. That’s not a problem per se, yet is an issue when you take the other six into account. Gone is that sense of something special, replaced by a bland, lightweight approach. Given that the record is front loaded with the stronger, existing material Is Your Love Big Enough? ends up as an unbalanced, ultimately disappointing collection. Having taken her time to get this far, to debut with such a release might be counterproductive. You hope not, as the 23-year-old certainly has elements of the real deal, but this record proves that those initial reservations were on the mark.