Review : Estelle - All of Me
PastemagazineRihanna’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. Despite having their names on “1 Thing,” “Like a Boy” and “American Boy” respectively, three of the greatest R&B singles of the last decade, that guarantees no shot they’ll get to record as much as Rihanna much less recoup.
Doubling the unfairness is the critical neglect of these female R&B crossovers’ albums. When reviewed at all, they’re usually polite, but not taken as seriously as R. Kelly or The-Dream’s records, where words like “genius” get thrown around. The girls are seen as producers’ pets and breaking out of the cycle to grow much of a personality becomes a catch-22. Critics loved Estelle’s flavorful Kanye duet, which had plenty of Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band in it, but the fine album that went with it got a bit discarded in the process. Four years later she’s hard-pressed for one of those reinventions that Bon Iver didn’t require after his Kanye duet. Oh well.
Shine, quoted from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You” and George Michael’s “Faith” and maintained somewhat of a sonic signature, a tuneful mélange of new jack swing, dustier hip-hop than is currently in vogue and some Kardinal Offishall-stamped ragga. The new All of Me is almost as good, though it indeed discards the album before it, trading in synths and lamer guests who have even less to do with her than Kanye—what could this Brit possibly have in common with Chris Brown or Rick Ross? The pursuit of money I suppose....full text
RandbFour years after her breakthrough album, 2008's Shine, London-born R&B singer Estelle Swaray has finally returned with a follow-up, All of Me, released in the U.S. Feb. 28, 2012. All of Me, which is her second American release and third overall, is a smart, energetic collection of songs, mostly revolving around love and relationships. Although her new album doesn't quite have the eclectic, international flavor that made her last album so great, it's still a solid, enjoyable listen. Some of the credit for this belongs to her musical collaborators, which include Trey Songz and Janelle Monae, among others....full text
Pitchfork"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. She raps and sings well but doesn't rely on quirk or theatrics. She incorporates styles from reggae to boom-bap into her songs, but doesn't try to forge weird new genre hybrids. She sings about grown-up stuff like personal contentment and finding clarity after a break-up. For lack of a better term, she's normal.
This works both for and against her. On the one hand, it's hard to get really excited about Estelle. Unlike, say, M.I.A., there's no sense of danger or what-will-she-do-next anticipation. On the other, she's solid and consistent, and her songs almost always sound good. She's also capable of making a hit. "American Boy", her bouncy, disco-flecked Kanye collaboration from 2008 charted at No. 1 in the UK and was pretty much inescapable stateside that summer. I liked Shine, the LP that track came from, a good deal more than my colleague Joshua Love, but it didn't produce any other big singles. On All of Me, Estelle seems keenly aware of this. She's focused more on hitmaking than crafting a cohesive album statement.
It's hard to blame her; this is the trend in pop these days. Because of the way people consume music now, a record has more commercial value as a scattered collection of hits than a unified, thematic concept with one or two possible breakout tracks. Look at Beyoncé's all-over-the-place but ultimately quite good 4, for example. Whether or not you think this is another sign of the Death of the Album is a whole other article-- the important thing is that Estelle and her producers work well within these constraints. From Swizz Beatz to Mark Ronson, Shine was all about big-name production, but this album does more with less. Some its best cuts come from unlikely sources: David Banner, Wyclef Jean, and lesser-known guys like Don Cannon....full text
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