British newcomer Leona Lewis describes the past year of her life as "overwhelming." As VOA's Mary Morningstar reports, the 23-year-old singer has taken the world by storm with her debut album, Spirit.
Two years ago, Leona Lewis was a contestant on X Factor, Britain's version of American Idol, where she won the singing competition. Last year, Leona signed a five-album deal with Clive Davis's J Records. Davis co-produced Leona's debut album, Spirit, with American Idol and X Factor judge Simon Cowell.
Since making her break in the American music scene, Leona has received comparisons to Alicia Keys and two of her biggest musical influences, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston.
"It's amazing really, a big compliment," she says. "I think I have a lot of hard work to do before I can have the right to be compared to artists like them, who are very incredible and have long success."
Spirit includes tracks written by OneRepublic's lead singer Ryan Tedder, pop singers Jesse McCartney and Avril Lavigne, hip-hop stars Ne-Yo and Akon, and Swedish songwriter/producer Max Martin. Leona also covered Roberta Flacks' 1972 Number One hit, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face."
Spirit debuted at Number One in 10 countries, including the United States. The album's Number One debut on the Billboard 200 was one of several records set by Leona on the American charts. She's the first British female artist to have a debut album enter that list in the top spot, and the first British artist to ever enter at Number One with a debut album. Leona is also the first British female artist since 1987 to debut at Number One on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.
"It's just been incredible for me. I can't believe how it's taken off," she says. "I'm just very thankful to be able to do this. It's a bit of a dream at the moment. I still find myself pinching myself. It's really amazing. I'm just enjoying it."