Release Date: Feb 28, 2012
Record label: Atlantic
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Adult Contemporary R&B, Contemporary R&B
Estelle is the rare one-name diva whose main appeal is her approachability. It's been four years since the round-the-way London girl's breakthrough, Kanye-abetted hit, "American Boy," but she's still the same proud graduate of the Lauryn Hill/Mary J. Blige school of warm, tough hip-hop R&B. Co-writer John Legend and guests like Rick Ross and Janelle Monáe help Estelle construct a multifaceted album – from the resilient post-breakup neo-soul of "Thank You" to the self-affirming boom-bap of "Speak Ya Mind." "I can be so pretentious/But he likes me all the same," she sings on the gingerly hopeful "Break My Heart"; it's her kind of realness, conversational and smooth just the same.
Everyone would love to have a megahit record like Estelle’s “American Boy,” but the few who do, often find themselves at a loss for their next move—some try too hard to recreate that hit; others try too hard to distance themselves from it. On All of Me, however, Estelle wisely retains the personality and spirit that contributed to her successful first and second albums, but doesn’t dwell on the past. She sounds just as comfortable as she did on her last album, and overall, delivers her best LP yet.
After a string of false starts and scrapped singles, All of Me is ready to go global. Seriously: The U.K. singer’s latest begins with shout-outs to Paris, Beijing, and ”wherever you came from.” But touristy boasting doesn’t quite suit her (”American Boy” was more about the boy than his borders, after all). Fortunately, what follows does: feel-good soul-pop, melodic grrrl-power rhymes, and lush love songs that make even gruff guest Rick Ross sound like a romantic.
"I'm not of-the-moment. I am a classic, yeah, I live at the MoMA," Estelle says in "The Life", the opening song from her new album All of Me. The UK rapper/singer intends this as a boast, of course, but it also highlights a key difference between her and most of the other women in her field. Which is to say, in a genre where a certain amount of flash has come to be expected, Estelle is decidedly un-flashy.
Rihanna’s success might give some people pause at the idea that any of those single-named R&B hitstresses could attain the career longevity that Amerie and Ciara could not. But it took Rihanna an absurd amount of time to become a household name—namely, six albums in seven years, which despite plenty of hits (especially “We Found Love,” “Umbrella,” “SOS” and the underrated “Disturbia”) likely took a backseat to her unfortunate history of abuse at her Grammy-winning ex’s hands to get there. Amerie, Ciara and Estelle barely have six albums between them.
Acurious album, this followup to the London rapper/singer's 2008 breakthrough, Shine. Along with excursions into multiple genres (reggae, electropop, hip-hop, soul), All of Me is punctuated by interludes in which young Americans discuss dating ("It is a daily, daily challenge," opines one). It feels as if Estelle isn't sure what she's about. From the opener The Life ("This one's for London, this one's for Brooklyn") it seems she's aiming for a sound that incorporates the spirit of her home city and the commercial gleam of her adopted one – a bit like the No 1 single American Boy.
Review Summary: Somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean at the turn of the millennium.Musicians are often damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Sound too dated... Get criticized. Force sounding modern... Get criticized. Show no diversity... Get criticized. Show a lack of cohesion ….
English singer Estelle has a distinct ability to project a relaxed confidence no matter the mood or musical style. Whether tackling R&B, reggae, rap or pop, her voice swoops and glides with such pitch-perfect, unrestrained ease, it's hard to doubt her intentions. Best known for hooky pop hit American Boy, she owns the mid-tempo on her long-delayed third LP, with the glistening 80s synth-funk-style Cold Crush (produced by Toronto duo Book & Bronze), the lovelorn lament Thank You and the lushly glamorous Break My Heart.
"American Boy" put Estelle in the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot 100, but none of the three subsequent singles from Shine touched that chart. The trend continued with a short series of A-sides during 2010 and 2011, with "Break My Heart" the exception. That song missed the Hot 100, but it actually fared slightly better on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart than "American Boy," likely due to the presence of hot-as-ever rapper Rick Ross.
There were a number of hold-ups in the process of getting Estelle’s album released in a post-Nicki Minaj world, one in which her R&B/neo-soul scene has been largely overtaken by newcomers. 2008’s Shine won over more than a few American boys, showing a vocal flexibility in the most glamorous and disco-popping of ways. Who can imagine 2008 without reciting Kanye West’s “American Boy” verses (“Before he speak his suit bespoke/And you thought he was cute before/Look at this pea coat, tell me he’s broke!”)? Estelle grew confident in both singing and rapping in multiple genres, and also had the luck to have big-name producers (Mark Ronson, Swizz Beatz, Will.
ESTELLE “All of Me” (Home School/Atlantic) The series of skits that weave through “All of Me,” the third Estelle album, involve a loose, wide-ranging conversation among several friends about relationships, education, family, careers and more. Even with the light soul-jazz in the background (produced in part by Questlove of the Roots), they have the feeling of intimate home recordings, modest and almost accidental. It’s an odd conceit on which to hang any album, much less one by a versatile and very polished singer and rapper.
This long-awaited third set is remarkable for its lack of standout hits. Nick Levine 2012 "Ain't slowing down, I only know speed," raps Estelle on All of Me's second track. Not when it comes to getting this album out – the Londoner's third LP has on the verge of release since 2010. In that time, its first two trailer singles – the David Guetta-produced Freak and the rather classier Fall in Love – have both been nixed from the tracklisting.