It feels like forever since my last album review. I was going to break the drought with my three-months-in-the-making academic study of Soraya's genre defining masterpiece "Dreamer" but I'm still too emotional after being tweeted by Spain's glorious gift to the universe. Next on my list was Selena Gomez & The Scene's underrated pop opus "A Year Without Rain" or my extremely overdue review of Ke$ha's already iconic "Cannibal" but I just can't get one album out of my head or off my iTunes recently played list. I've written about Shontelle before. You know - the new and improved Rihanna, best known for the year's best diva ballad "Impossible". The Barbadian beauty's sophomore album was released back in September and peaked at #81 in America before falling off the chart altogether. Which just goes to prove that there's no accounting for taste. "No Gravity" isn't the deepest musical offering of 2010 and suffers from one too many cooks production-wise, but if you're looking for a sizzling bunch of club bangers with a sprinkling of over the top balladry then Shonnie is your bitch. This is the album Rihanna would make if she removed that giant stick from her overused arsehole. It's fun, catchy and completely unpretentious. Shontelle needs to migrate to Australia where her voice and talent would be better appreciated. She could be the Marcia Hines of the new millennium! Here is my track by track review:
1. Perfect Nightmare
"No Gravity" was delayed for several months to give Shontelle the opportunity to get in the studio with Darkchild and this is a result of that collaboration. I adore the song but it has to be said that "Perfect Nightmare" owes a lot to Beyoncé's "Sweet Dreams". The lyrical content is very similar and the production isn't exactly worlds apart. But if you're going to rip something off, it might as well be something good. And I love the way Shon's exploration of the line between love and hate, passion and obsession begins as an acoustic ballad before transforming into a brooding dance anthem. Rodney Jerkins has been on fire lately and this is one of his most interesting productions. Perhaps a little too interesting. "Beautiful Nightmare" takes a couple of listens to get into, which could explain its inability to chart. It's a shame because this a truly beautiful pop song.
Oh fuck, what do you say about "Impossible". To my mind, it's one of the year's most unexpected hits. The track is such a throwback to the 90s (you know, when divas could actually sing) with its soaring chorus and you done me wrong lyrics. Toni Braxton would have owned this back in the day but Shontelle shows off her own powerful pipes to stunning effect. I defy you to listen to "Impossible" without at least one power grab!
3. No Gravity
For a while this was touted as the album's second single. With good reason. "No Gravity" is an irresistible pop explosion with effortlessly uplifting lyrics and a plethora of catchy vocal hooks. There's something very European about the production, which isn't really that surprising given the long list of Swedish names in the credits. The album's title track is as cute as button. I really hope they haven't given up on this entirely. It could work wonders in Europe and Australia.
4. Take Ova (feat. Pitbull)
I've had a sick obsession with Pitbull since seeing him perform at Supafest earlier this year. His mesmerising hip thrusting turned me into a stan overnight and the prospect of my man collaborating with the pride of the Barbados left me salivating. Happily, the song lived up to my lofty expectations. Darkchild's dancehall meets Eastern European disco approach to production is fierce and the heavy beats are guaranteed to get your feet moving. There's nothing particularly deep about the lyrics (well, apart from Pit's rap about playing with his microphone - hell yes!) but this is a great party anthem that sounds radio ready for America.
5. Say Hello To Goodbye
Shontelle returns to ballad mode on "Say Hello To Goodbye", injecting some variety into the album. I don't mind this. It isn't particularly ground-breaking or original but I like the song's message and Shonnie's emotional vocal. My only criticism is the production, which sounds very dated. Producers really need to move on from Ryan Tedder increasingly boring formula of guitar based mid-tempo balladry. He spends enough time recycling that shit himself without the rest of the industry jumping on his bandwagon.
6. DJ Made Me Do It (feat. Asher Roth)
This has become something of a fan favourite but it's easily my least favourite song on the album. Co-written by Bruno Mars and produced by his team (The Smeezingtons), "DJ made Me Do It" is a fairly straightforward club banger with highly predictable lyrics that I swear I've heard a million times before. It also has a really annoying sample and features the world's most pointless rapper. The track was originally recorded by Nina Sky but rescued by Shontelle when their album was shelved. She shouldn't have bothered. "DJ Made Me Do It" is pleasant enough but it's been done before and better.
7. Love Shop
If you download only one song from "No Gravity", make it "Love Shop". This pop trash explosion pushes all my camp buttons and is already a #1 smash in my alternate universe. I love the stunningly bad lyrics - "I'll be your love shop baby tonight, I'll do all the things you like" and "my love is open from 6am to 6am, so hurry up and come inside". Subtle! My love shop couldn't handle all that business but I digress. "Love Shop" showcases Shontelle's fun side and is catchy to the point of being annoying. I have no idea who Djibril Kagni and Jordan Houyez are but Dannii needs to hire these geniuses to re-produce her domestic violence themed club classic "Love Fight". Amazing!
The upbeat dance-pop continues with "Helpless". It's a fun track but pales in comparison to "Love Shop". There's just something missing that holds this back from being excellent. Perhaps its the generic production or boring lyrics. And why does Shonnie pronounce mirror as mir-woir. Girl, you're not French. Think of this as pleasant filler.
9. Kiss You Up
Written and produced by Tony Kanal (No Doubt) and Jimmy Harry, "Kiss You Up" is a sweet little ballad. The piano is a nice touch and I love the pretty lyrics. Shontelle is so versatile. She can churn out throwaway dance-pop with the best of them but also knows how to interpret something more intimate and introspective. This is missing the big hook it needed to work on radio but it's a little gem that I can't stop listening to.
10. T-Shirt (Radio Killa Mix)[feat. The-Dream]
I have no idea what Shon's stunning debut single is doing on this album. It was the crowning jewel of her fabulously titled debut ("Shontelligence") but the sexy slow jam doesn't fit on "No Gravity". I'm so pissed off that "Licky" was given the flick, while this made the cut. Sure, that stunning dance anthem boasts the least flattering video clip of 2010 but the song is amazing and sounds like a hit to me. Hopefully it will feature on the inevitable re-release!
11. Evacuate My Heart
Shontelle pulls a Kylie by wasting one of the album's best songs as a bonus track. Sure, "Evacuate My Heart" is Rihanna by the numbers but it's more fun than anything RiRi's done since "Good Girl Gone Bad" and Darkchild's seething production is club and radio ready. This would be a good single choice if Shontelle is afraid of exposing her love shop to the world. The heavy beats and catchy chorus make this a perfect conclusion to an extremely enjoyable album that never tries to be anything other than dumb fun.