Lianne La Havas
It would be tempting to describe the singing of Lianne La Havas as "pitch-perfect", so beautiful and seemingly pre-ordained is the sound that emerges from her mouth.
Yet that description does scant justice to the Londoner's talent, or to our experience of listening to her, in concert, or on her remarkable debut album, 'Is Your Love Big Enough?'.
Her vocals sound like Lianne has little choice in the matter: she has to sing, there's no choice involved. Okay, yes, the way she phrases a melody, the emotion she brings to her lyrics, is so precise, and so precisely right, that you can find yourself reaching for superlatives grouped under the letter P. But there still seems something too bloodless and clinical about those words: as a singer, as a musician, Lianne is simply too untamed, too primal, to be wrapped up like a parcel and labelled with such lazy ease.
It wasn't always that way. As a child, Lianne sang in private, to herself, as if her voice was a language she wasn't ready to use with anyone else. "I look back," she says now, "and it seems weird that I wasn't more song-and-dancey about it. You know, 'Look at me – I can SING!'. But it was just this 'thing' that I did – this deeply personal thing, and I felt incredibly shy about sharing it."
Nobody who saw Lianne's performance on Later last year could possibly call it shy. On the contrary: something, at that moment, seemed to crystallise, as a new star announced herself to the world. There was an assuredness to her appearance – yet, as before, that seems too cold a way of describing it. Rather, Lianne's poise was so notable because it contrasted so totally, so compellingly, with her music. Watching her felt like seeing a person at war – with herself. But then, that's exactly why her songs can seem both so raw and so (ominously) calm: the emotion can be either on the surface or lurking just beneath it, but that emotion is always incandescent. With rage, sometimes, with lust, or longing, or rapture, at others. And always, always, with passion.