Shontelle: No Gravity (Album Review)

No Gravity is, in many ways, a fitting title for a record so lacking in terms of marketing.

So much has happened in the world of Shontelle that has restricted the Bajan songstress from being presented in a clear and consistent fashion to a mainstream audience: Release date push backs, little to no PR, a sloppy official website, the release of a single that isn’t even on the album–it’s safe to say the No Gravity campaign was (and is) truly without ties to keep it grounded.

That being said, it’s the music that really matters, and this is a record worth owning.

No Gravity contains an intriguing and seemingly unrelated mix of hit-makers–ranging from Darkchild and The Smeezingtons on the production side to Bruno Mars, Arnthor Birgisson (Britney’s “Out From Under”) and Shontelle herself on the writing side, as well as two features by of-the-minute rappers, Pitbull and Asher Roth.

Despite its lead single being a power ballad (“Impossible,” which managed to climb to #13 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August), No Gravity is, by and large, an up-tempo pop/dance record–even when least expected.

Case in point: The album opening track (and current/alleged single), “Perfect Nightmare.” Opening as an overwrought piano power ballad, the song is not initially impressive. “Sometimes I hate, sometimes I love, sometimes I hurt, sometimes I don’t,” she croons, resembling a sappy cover of Britney’s already sappy “Sometimes.”

It isn’t until the unexpected leap into its own chorus (“When will I wake up and scream, ‘NO WAY! NO WAY! NO WAY!”) that the song completely throws itself for a loop (and into something amazing), charging into a full-on, four-to-the-floor charging beat that refuses to let go. When all is said and done, “Perfect Nightmare” stands as a completely praise-worthy dance anthem.

While there’s no one song that immediately screams “chart topper,” there’s still plenty to love here, including the thumping “Helpless,” the electric guitar-led break-up ballad “Say Hello to Goodbye” (which oddly brings to mind Joan Osborne‘s “One of Us”), and a personal favorite: “Love Shop.” Like a lightly island-tinged interpretation of Janet Jackson‘s brilliant underrated Disclipline track, “Rock With U,” Shontelle sweetly floats atop a cosmic, electro-tinged beat that flows throughout the track.

Other tracks seem poised to make an impression on the club charts, and certainly have the ability to do so: “Take Ova,” which is shockingly not about the process in vitro fertilization as I’d previously assumed, is perfectly suited to be pumped from the speakers of an overheated club.

“Assume the position, you’re going to have to step into the light,” Shontelle commands atop a hand-clapping, scorching beat. Copy paste any of Pitbull’s verses from one of the song’s he’s been featured on in the past year, and there you have it: IT’S A SMASH.

“DJ Made Me Do It” is another club-worthy anthem. Featuring an inoffensive rap break by last year’s flash in the pan, Asher Roth, the song meshes the carefree modern neo-soul styling of Estelle‘s “American Boy” with a more adventurous, rocky crunch a la N.E.R.D.‘s “She Wants To Move.”

No Gravity contains enough hook-heavy melodies to satisfy the cravings of both casual listeners and pop snobs alike. Even if the album doesn’t quite contain that one hit needed to compete in the impossibly insular world of American radio airwaves (“Impossible–SEE WHAT I DID THERE?), it’s still a strong body of work.

If you haven’t already, give this record a shot–you’ll be glad you did.

No Gravity will be released on September 21.

To preview or purchase music from Shontelle on iTunes including “Impossible,” click here.

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