Single Review: Shontelle – ‘Impossible’

Music goes through it’s phases, like a human being it has it’s fads and it’s moments where it just seems like it can’t get enough of a certain thing. Music favours a certain genre at one point, a certain lyric or a certain artist. The biggest example of this is right now: everything since 2008 has seen a sharp turn towards electronic music, the lyric “Ayo” is enjoying a nice long period on the limelight and we all know just how successful Lady GaGa has been, and more particularly, David Guetta, showing he has the Midas touch on everything he produces or releases.

And at the start of the noughties, R&B ladies were the ones to listen to; Destiny’s Child, Atomic Kitten, Mariah Carey, Aaliyah, Christina Aguilera, even P!nk (who started out in the R&B genre) were all the rage. But, as with all good things, too much becomes a curse. The charts became stale with wannabes who thought they had soul and it was R&B ballad after R&B ballad every Sunday afternoon on Radio 1. The Top 40 had hit it’s first commercial snag, with all the songs consisting of nothing more than a few electronic hand-snaps and a simple, single-handed piano melody, and a pop songstress (or occasionally a man) singing about a lost love.

It was no wonder I had no interest in music at the time, every other song was attempting to be “emotional” and “sentimental”, when in fact it was more like listening to paint dry because, nothing really happened.

Now, ten-ish years later, Shontelle is releasing a song that would easily be one of the best selling songs of the year, if it was released in 2001. But here’s the rob: the charts never have, and never will reflect how good a song is: the Top 40 will only ever reflect the opinion of the people; their favourite track of the Now, or what just so happens to be in heavy rotation at the time, because nowadays anyone can get to #1 with semi-alright looks, and semi-alright voice and HEAPS of promotion… and it’s pretty much a-given when artists offer to bare all if they get to #1.

So let’s take ‘Impossible’ and feed it into the information we have already: it’s a song that would hit #1 in 2001, a year with such same-y songs it would be more of a feat for this song to peak at #2, only it’s not same-y anymore considering when it’s actually being released: 2010, where everything is upbeat and same-y in a completely different way; this time, ‘Impossible’ isn’t part of the same-y-ness; it’s massively different to anything on the airwaves since 2008.

So whilst it’s never going to hit #1 (because there’s no way a ballad will ever hit #1 with the way music is today unless it’s sung by Take That), this is actually one of the best ballads I’ve heard in a LONG time, not necessarily because recent ballads have been bad (although Jason Derulo’s ‘What If’ could sway that), but mainly because there haven’t been that many to listen to.

‘Impossible’ follows the typical piano-lead introduction, followed by a beautifully sung verse, gradually declining in pitch, and on the word “take” it’s like the whole thing transposes into a minor key and becomes even more strikingly beautiful. The production is as smooth as a baby’s bottom smothered in Johnson’s, and Shontelle’s vocals are sincere and guileless, and when the beat finally comes in, the song is transformed from a simple R&B ballad into Shontelle’s finest musical endeavour to date.

But she’s not just moping about a lost lover, no, she’s also overcoming the fear of not being able to leave this man, and by the end of the song she’s wailing to the sky “Tell them what I hoped would be/Impossible, impossible”, and yes the chorus may feature a bit of auto-tune, but I’ve come to the terms that auto-tune is only a bad thing when it detracts from the song and makes it hard to listen to and believe what the singer is saying. But thankfully, ‘Impossible’ does the impossible (such a joker, I know) and conveys tonnes of emotion on every line – “And my heart is broken/All my scars are open”.

Shontelle proves she’s miles ahead of Rihanna in terms of song-writing ability, and her ability to sing with more vocal clarity than Rihanna’s ‘laryngitis-suffering goat’ impression, showing that she can carry emotion; carry pain, hurt, and anguish over an icy production. It is now that people should consider Shontelle a real contender in the industry.

It defies all sense, this song would’ve been respected and commended nine years ago, when songs like these were huge, but it’s very bittersweet in that sense: if it were released back then, it wouldn’t be half as special. Releasing ‘Impossible’ now makes it ten times more emotive than it’s early-noughties counterparts, but that said, it’s likely to chart a lot lower, due to the fact that ballads are out of fashion.

And that, is the true legacy of the UK Singles Chart, where the best songs tend to completely miss the Top 10, let alone hit #1.

Rating: 4.5 STARS

Download: September 13, 2010

Featured Album: ‘No Gravity’

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