Here’s Philip Lickley’s verdict on this years X Factor winners single. If you would like to contribute to All-Noise, get in touch on [email protected]
James Arthur – ‘Impossible’
I have a confession to make that will put me at odds with a lot of people in my age bracket: I’ve never watched a single episode of ‘The X Factor’. But, like anyone who follows the charts, it’s difficult to escape the hype and the inevitable-ish number one that follows – and at least I can come to this year’s annual winner’s single release fresh. So here we are in 2012 with the series nine winner of The X-Factor, James Arthur, releasing his cover of the 2010 Shontelle song ‘Impossible’. No, I didn’t know it either from the title but recognised it once the lyrics kicked in.
How does his cover stack up? Though far gruffer and slower-paced than the original, like many of the other X-Factor covers it doesn’t really deviate much from the first version in structure. Once more ticking the box of lyrics that could both symbolise the winner’s journey to the place where they are now – and of course including a key change – this is possibly the least enjoyable winning track in a long while from a listening perspective, though it’s thankfully a little bit perkier than Little Mix’s ‘Cannonball’, even if less easy to listen to with Shontelle’s higher female vocals more at home in tackling the notes. It’s not that the song is bad – the lyrics are strong and the chorus has some great catchiness and singability – it’s just his voice is, well, a bit groany for my liking as if he’s trying to swallow stones and sing hits at the same time.
Though less electronically and overtly produced than the two-year-old original, it’s not as enjoyable a listen with his singing feeling forced, and once more the choice of a cover is expected but disappointing, but there’s still hope as Little Mix and Matt Cardle produced far more interesting material after their ‘big break’ died down.
I’m not sure why they keep insisting on releasing gloomy X-Factor winning songs. It’s Christmas, we’re in the middle of a recession and the news is full of doom and gloom: please Simon just give us something up-tempo. At least 25p of each sale goes to the Together For Short Lives charity so buying it does some good for charity though.
It’s not a bad cover but not quite up to the original, which was hardly earth-shattering itself. Gruff and awkward, it’s a step down from last year’s ‘Cannonball’ but is catchy and powerful enough to pass the time.
So how will ‘Impossible’ do in the charts? Well it’s likely to make light-work of reaching the top forty this Sunday, especially with the physical release hitting every shop imaginable on Wednesday, even against the force of Gabrielle “John Lewis’ Aplin currently sitting pretty at number one, but it will find more of a battle for the Christmas number one on the 23rd with the next single from Robbie Williams, the beautiful ballad ‘Different’, even if not one of his best; the latest release from X-Factor runners-up JLS; and, most difficult of all, the charity release from ‘The Justice Collective’ to raise money for Hillsborough charities. If that doesn’t reach number one for Christmas – again, an equally gloomy, down-beat track for the festive season – I’ll eat my Santa hat. It’s perhaps not ‘impossible’ for Arthur to hit the seasonal top spot, but unlikely on account of the competition.