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Before and after: The year in popular songs. Day 2: Leona Lewis' 'Bleeding Love'

December 17, 2008 | 11:02 am

The past year is one we can fairly divide into "before" and "after" -- the economic crash and Barack Obama's presidential election have both irrevocably changed the flow of American life. Pop & Hiss is going through Billboard's year-end singles, considering how the impact of the most popular songs has changed since 2008's fateful fall (See the previous entry on Flo Rida here).

No. 2 is after the jump.

2. Leona Lewis, "Bleeding Love"

FIRST IMPACT: Naysayers decry Lewis as personality-free, and this shining edifice of a ballad, penned by rocker-to-the-stars Ryan Tedder, certainly defies stylistic categorization. It's too silicone-sleek to classify as soul, too rhythmically boring to work as cutting-edge R&B, and too gentle for rock. And yet ... as that lapping tide of a rhythm track builds, and Lewis' melancholy sob worms its way into your cochlea, "Bleeding Love" draws you in and holds you rapt. Plenty of wars and Grammy awards have been won with this kind of persuasion.

AFTER OBAMA: The daughter of a Guyanese father and a Welsh mom, with features that signal exoticism without pointing to any one origin, Lewis is an ideal post-racial pop star. (Read an interesting post here about the English version of the "Bleeding Love" video, which may have featured too much interracial love for the U.S.) Her voice has a subtle Caribbean lilt -- a signal of the African diaspora that's more contemporary and Obama-relevant than more traditional, blues-based singing. Tedder acts as her Jonathan Favreau, giving a mildly hip spin to her earnestness.

AFTER THE CRASH: "I keep bleeding, I keep, keep bleeding..." Who can't apply the song's hook to their own personal finances these days?

-- Ann Powers

Photo credit: Getty Images