Impossible (Christina Aguilera song)

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Song by Christina Aguilera from the album Stripped
Recorded 2002
Genre R&B, neo soul
Length 4:14
Label RCA
Writer Alicia Keys
Producer Keys
Stripped track listing
"Loving Me 4 Me"

"Impossible" is a song by American recording artist Christina Aguilera, taken from her fourth studio album, Stripped (2002). The song was written and produced by Alicia Keys. The track is a piano-driven ballad which talks about being impossible to declare to someone, since the person is reluctant to demonstrate the same. Some websites claimed that "Impossible" significantly samples Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way" (1968), however neither Aguilera or Keys confirmed or denied it.

During reviews from Stripped, "Impossible" received mainly positive reviews from music critics, who praised its melody and deemed it as one of the stand-out tracks from Stripped. Aguilera performed the track on two of her major concert tours: Justified & Stripped Tour (2003) and The Stripped Tour (2003). Aguilera has also performed the track multiple times, including one on the 2003 American Music Awards, which was selected as one of the best performances of the event.

Background and recording[edit]

Alicia Keys (pictured) wrote, produced, composed and arranged "Impossible"

Following the release of the self-titled debut album in 1999, Aguilera had achieved major success with four worldwide number-one hits.[1] Despite the international success, the singer was dissatisfied with the music and image that her manager, Steve Kurtz, had created for her, having been marketed as a bubblegum pop singer because of the genre's upward financial trend.[2] She mentioned plans for her next album to have more musical and lyrical depth.[3] Aguilera decided not to continue the contact with Kurtz.[3] By late 2000, after terminating Kurtz's services, Irving Azoff was hired as her new manager.[3] Aguilera decided to take a more prominent role in the musical direction of her next record. She also used her new alter ego, "Xtina", and changed her appearance.[4] Speaking about the conception of the album, Aguilera told MTV News that "it is a new beginning, a re-introduction of myself as a new artist in a way, because for the first time people are really seeing and getting to know I really am".[5] She also revealed, "Coming off of the height of being a part of such a big pop-craze phenomenon, that imagery of that cookie-cutter sweetheart, without it being me, I just had to take it all down and get it away from me. And that is why I actually named the album Stripped, because it is about being emotionally stripped down and pretty bare to open my soul and heart".[5]

In May 2002, Alicia Keys was reported to produce a song for Aguilera, with both singers have been wanting to work together for a while. Later, Keys wrote the song, but not before they had a chance to vibe off each other — they hung out and partied before Keys penned the track. Alicia promised to deliver "pimped-out vocals" from Christina on the track called "Impossible". The three-day sessions, which took place at the New York's Electric Lady Studios, occurred even when Aguilera's nose was stuffy, her eyes were puffy and she was coughing. During the recording session, Aguilera said, "I like the piano." "Now I gotta learn how to play. You inspire [me]." With Keys replying, "I like them vocals. We're smashing. Official killer. 'Killer Chris!'".[6]

Composition and lyrics[edit]

A 24-second sample of "Impossible"

Problems playing this file? See media help.

"Impossible" was written, arranged, composed and produced by Alicia Keys.[7] Keys also provided background vocals, along with Aguilera.[7] "Impossible" is a slow, chord-driven, piano ballad.[6] Written in the key of F major, it has a freely tempo of 108 beats per minute.[8] Aguilera's vocal range on the song span from the low-note of E3 to the high-note of E5.[8] According to Metro Mix and other websites, the song significantly samples Aretha Franklin's 1968's "Ain't No Way".[9] Lyrically, "Impossible" is about relational transparency, where Aguilera claims that it is impossible to give her love to someone, since the person is reluctant to demonstrate the same.[10] "It's impossible to make it easy if you're always trying to make it so damn hard," she sings. "How can I, how can I give you all my love, baby/ If you're always, always putting up your guard/ This is not a circus, don'tcha play me for a clown," warns Aguilera.[6]

Critical reception[edit]

During reviews from Stripped, "Impossible" received mainly positive reviews from contemporary music critics. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of Allmusic highlighted it as one of the album's standout tracks.[11] For Tracy E. Hopkins of Barnes & Noble, "With songs such as the classic soul-–inspired, Alicia Keys-–penned 'Impossible,' Aguilera graduates with honors from the teen pop ranks of Britney and Mandy to the adult pop-'n'-soul realm of Janet and Whitney."[12] Dwayne Carter of Enjoy the Music wrote that, "The talented Alicia Keys coined 'Impossible', and both artists seemed to enjoy the collaboration. I would like to see them do this tune live."[13]

Live performances[edit]

Aguilera first performed "Impossible" on the Justified & Stripped Tour, a concert tour which was held in summer 2003 to support Justin Timberlake's album Justified (2002) and Aguilera's Stripped.[14] In late 2003, Aguilera continued to perform the track on the former's extension, Stripped Live... on Tour, which happened without Timberlake's acts.[15][16] The performance in London is included on the singer's first full-length DVD Stripped Live in the U.K. (2004).[15] Aguilera also performed "Impossible" in a number of places, including AOL Sessions, Today Show, La Academia, MTV Conexion, as well as the 2003 American Music Awards, in a medley with "Beautiful". The performance was selected as one of the best of the AMAs history and the best performance of 2003.[17] Curiously, during a homage to Aretha Franklin at the 2011 Grammy Awards, Aguilera sang "Ain't No Way", a track that some critics noted it looks very similar to "Impossible".[9]


"Impossible" has been covered by multiple artists. In 2011, Kendra Chantelle, a contestant from the tenth season of American Idol sang the track.[18] Also in 2011, the contestant from the fourth season of the Dutch version of The X Factor sang "Impossible".[19] In 2013, Candice Glover, from the twelfth season of American Idol, also sang the track, which led her to advance on the competition.[20] Ultimately, Glover won the season.[21]

Credits and personnel[edit]

  • Christina Aguilera – Vocals, background vocals
  • Alicia Keys – Songwriting, producing, arranging, composing, piano
  • Paul John – Drums
  • David Watson, Darryl Dixon, Fred Maxwell– Horns
  • Uriah Duffy, Rufus Jackson – Bass
  • Arthur White, Dwayne Wiggins – Guitars
  • Tony Black – Recording

Credits adapted from liner notes of Stripped, RCA Records.[7]


  1. ^ Dominguez, Pier (2003). "The Seduction of Fame". Christina Aguilera: A Star Is Made, the Unauthorized Biography. ISBN 0-9702224-5-9. Retrieved July 18, 2013. 
  2. ^ Stitzel, Kim (2002). "Christina Aguilera: Not Your Puppet". MTV Networks. Viacom. Retrieved January 29, 2009. 
  3. ^ a b c Elysa, Gardner (October 24, 2002). "Aguilera's image is 'Stripped'". USA Today (Gannett Company). Retrieved July 3, 2009. 
  4. ^ "Christina Aguilera: Five Fun Facts". People. Time Inc. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b Vineyard, Jennifer (October 31, 2002). "Christina Stands Up For The Ladies, Discusses Father's Abuse". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved July 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Reid, Shaheem (June 25, 2002). "Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys Party Up For 'Impossible'". MTV News. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Aguilera, Christina (2002). Stripped (liner notes). Christina Aguilera. RCA Records
  8. ^ a b "Christina Aguilera "Impossible" Music Sheet". Universal Music Publishing Group. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "Ripoff artists? Ten songwriting controversies". Metro Mix. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Christina Aguilera | Stripped | Album Review | Plugged In". Plugged In. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  11. ^ "Stripped - Christina Aguilera | AllMusic". Allmusic. October 29, 2002. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  12. ^ Hopkins, Tracy E. (October 29, 2002). "Stripped by RCA, Christina Aguilera | Barnes & Noble". Barnes & Noble. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  13. ^ Carter, Dwanye. "Christina Aguilera Stripped by Dwayne Carter". Enjoy the Music. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  14. ^ Elfman, Doug (June 23, 2003). "Aguilera Skillfuly Blends Her Two Sides". Las Vegas Review-Journal (Stephens Media). ISSN 1097-1645. 
  15. ^ a b Julia Knowles (director), Sharon Ali (producer) and Christina Aguilera (singer-songwriter, producer) (October 12, 2004). Stripped Live in the U.K. United Kingdom: RCA Records. 
  16. ^ Vineyard, Jennifer (July 11, 2006). "Two Years Later, Aguilera Fans Finally Getting Their Due: A Refund". MTV News. Viacom. Retrieved July 6, 2013. 
  17. ^ "The AMAs | Michael, Mariah, Whitney: Classic Moments At the AMAs - The AMAs". American Music Awards. October 28, 2013. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  18. ^ Angeline (March 2, 2011). "Video: Kendra Chantelle Campbell Sings “Impossible” by Christina Aguilera When the Top 12 Girls Perform". Wetpaint. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Tania - (Christina Aguilera - Impossible) (X Factor Holland 2011)". YouTube. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  20. ^ Barker, Brendan (February 14, 2003). "American Idol 2013 Hollywood Week: Candice Glover Performs ‘Impossible’". American Idol Net. Retrieved December 12, 2013. 
  21. ^ Stahler, Kelsea. "'AMERICAN IDOL' RECAP: CANDICE GLOVER WINS, EVERYONE ELSE CAN GO HOME NOW". Retrieved December 12, 2013. 

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