23-year-old Barbados-born Shontelle has the unforunateÂ disadvantage of being constantly compared to another Bajan beauty: Rihanna. It doesn’t help her cause being on related record labels, being discovered by the same producer (Evan Rogers), and being managed by the same company. One skim through her bio would lead you to think that she’s just aÂ gimmick; a pretty face plucked off the little island to pick up where Rihanna left off when she decided to go bad, andÂ that her debut album, Shontelligence, will sound like an albumÂ replete with Rihanna leftovers, or worst, Rihanna copies. One word: wrong. Shontelle’s 11-trackÂ debutÂ album is filled with songs that are confident,Â fearless, and rally for women’s empowerment.
The comparisons to that other Bajan diva will be plenty, but,Â sometimes, theyÂ work in Shontelle’s favor. Those whom are fans of the two will quickly notice thatÂ Shontelle’s voice is developed; clear, strong, full of range, and no nasal quality to acquire a taste for.Â Plus, [shock! dismay!] Shontelle co-wrote eight of the eleven tracks on the album. But that’s not to say the album is perfect.
The album starts with Shontelle’s first single, “T-Shirt.” The airy pop/r&b seemed to be the perfect introduction to Shontelle’s mix of pop, r&b, and island influences. They certainly come together perfectly through the next four songs: second single “Battle Cry,” the powerful “Superwoman” and the moody stunner “Cold, Cold Summer.” But after that,Â (and this is where the comparisons come back to haunt her) unlike Rihanna’s first two albums,Â the album has a harder time blending Shontelle’s caribbean influences with the more mainstream genres in a way that does not make the listener feel a bit misled by the first two singles. “Roll It,” “Focus Pon Me,” and “Life is Not an Easy Road“Â are all strong tracks, butÂ diverges tooÂ far intoÂ the reggae side. Shontelle also loses some vocal quality when singing in Bajan dialect (not to mention the lyrics being much harder to understand). This would all be fine if it were expected, but the first two singlesÂ roped fans in with a pop/r&b lasso.
All is forgiven when the ‘hypocrites be damned’ anthem “Plastic People” kicks in. Album closer “Flesh and Bone” proves that Shontelle canÂ fuse all three genres with successful results. The song has that island feel without alienating the fans who love “T-Shirt.”
Even though Shontelle will probably face comparisons until her next album, she can take solace in the fact that Shontelligence is aÂ solid debut worthy of a singer who will not only breakthrough the comparisons, but come out on top, eventually making you forget she was ever compared to ol’ what’s-her-name.