When she first pounced on the scene back in 2008, Estelle was quite a refresher during the British Soul Invasion in the mid-to-late 2000's. Bringing back a sense of flavor a la Lauryn Hill and Neneh Cherry, with her roll-with-the-punches attitude and slick ability to switch from lyrical flows and to crooning, the UK singer was a vacation from the monotony of so-called R&B. She wasn't without controversy as she was quite vocal about how much she disliked the media attention towards fellow acts like Adele and Duffy while Black Soul artists, like herself, weren't receiving the same shine. In a lot of ways she was right, yet she wasn't exactly doing too shabby with "American Boy" in her pocket, and acts like Kanye West and John Legend as support. Estelle's career took a plateau when two singles ("Freak" and "Fall In Love") failed to launch hype for her follow-up to her hit breakthrough set Shine, prompting push-backs and modifications over the course of two years for her third release. Not to mention, the Blackface controversy surrounding the video for "Freak", which led to a nasty backlash.
Estelle has been singing a new tune lately and showing her growth as she has refashioned herself for her newly minted, All Of Me. She's rooting for her fellow Brit singers (yes, even Adele) and has kept things sexy n' simple for her duo of hit singles, the
Interweaving the tracks on All Of Me are interludes that give varying accounts of relationships gone wrong. Mostly they are there to pad the tracklisting, but they play a role as being the contrast to Estelle's glass-half-full approach to relationships in ruin. In this vein, Estelle excels with "Thank You", which upon it's release turned the whole situation of what was to be All Of Me around.
Sublime it is, as it coasts along in a dreamy old school coo and deals with Estelle seeing the silver lining in a failed relationship. It's the one of the best things she's done (and surprisingly, the words of Akon sound as genuine as can be), as it anchors the album well. "Love The Way We Used To" and the poppy Natasha Bendingfield-ish "Wonderful Life" have snatches of Shine resting in their make-up, while highlight, "Cold Crush" has Estelle in a glossy, yet funky 80's groove that is has single-worthy written all over it.
Nothing is all serene as the album opens with the stark proclamation of "The Life" while percussive slam-bam of "Speak Ya Mind" rocks a steady good one. Both songs feature Estelle back in her 'raptress' guise and it's a nice contrast to whenever she switches up the flow with the bouncy Wyclef Jean produced, "Back To Love". Janelle Monáe even swivels her way into the Ne-Yo penned, "Do My Thing" a quasi-"Sisters Are Doing It For Themselves" duel that plays out energetically for both parties.
Toe-to-toe All Of Me rests next to Shine as Estelle stays true to herself by not straying from her original formula, but spicing up things with some new ideas in the mix. In a lot of ways I breathe a sigh of relief that Estelle didn't pander to what is hot on radio or what "sells", something that some of her peers are proving to have difficult time doing on either their follow-up or third albums. Here Estelle glides through those speed bumps with ease as pleasantries abound on All Of Me, keeping things on a feel-good level and making for a solid return.
Release Date: February 28, 2012
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