Released February 28, 2012
Album Photo Credit: Daniel Jackson
Review by Bluebird
Estelle Swaray exploded onto the Hip Hop/R&B scene in 2008 with the song, "American Boy." This West London vocalist has a strong, sweet voice that was a crisp bold contrast to Jay-Z, who rapped alongside her in a stunning Grammy performance. Many of the songs on "SHINE" took a fresh look at R&B and the world fell in love with Estelle's elegant style. Her song, "You Are" with John Legend, stands out even still, as a great vocal for both artists, bringing true romance back to the music world.
Her new album, "All of Me," offers a wide range of sound for the listeners, some of them unexpected.
From Estelle's biography :
“SHINE” – which marked the premiere release from Grammy Award-winner John Legend’s Homeschool Records label, in partnership with Atlantic Records – was without question one of 2008’s most compelling releases. Executive Produced by Legend and Atlantic Records Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, the album proved Estelle’s global breakthrough, fuelled in part by the phenomenal hit single, “American Boy (Feat. Kanye West).” In addition to hitting #1 in the UK, “American Boy” topped the European Airplay Chart, along with airplay charts in the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, and Ireland. In the US, “American Boy” has been certified 2x-platinum by the RIAA for digital sales exceeding 2 million. And in 2009, the track earned Estelle her first-ever Grammy Award, among many other prestigious honors.
Estelle has adopted New York as her new home city. Hip Hop collectors will love this album because there are 5 raw clips of Estelle in her Manhattan apartment, talking with her friends about life, relationships, education, and the power of your dreams. Blues artists do this sometimes, they just lay out 'stories' on records between songs to give the listeners a part of themselves that does not come through on the music recordings.
Pop followers may wonder, "Where is the clear voiced Estelle sound of American Boy?" Some of these songs are produced for effect with rap pieces woven in between and others like "Wonderful Life" are up tempo anthems with fun arrangements and positive lyrical messages. Keep listening, "All of Me" shows a wide range of vocals and styles within the same album. "Cold Crush" was our favorite.
Photo Credit: Keith Major
Track by Track:
1. The Life
Estelle's voice echos to open the album which brings you in. The rap track is a globe trotting escapade that circles the stories she's experienced along the way, offering credit for the cities and regions that have uplifted her throughout the journey.
2. International (Serious) Featuring Chris Brown and Trey Songz
This rap collaboration has a reggae vibe and rolls along with Estelle's voice weaving in and out, flowing through the background too.
3. You And I
4. Love The Way We Used To
The whole album is like paying a visit to Estelle. Cozy cocoa on the couch to talk and 'let this day take us where we want ...' Bitter sweet love gone by is a tough theme to work through for anyone. Highlights of the truth that good and bad things can exist at the same time tells this story. The music behind it is bright and paces the song toward the positive side, which is Estelle's stance on life, let things shine in whatever way they can, but know the real dynamics underneath it all too.
5. Cold Crush
Estelle as we all know her. 'Cold Crush' is an anchor to this album in my opinion. The voice that captured the world just a few years ago comes through in the powerful R&B wrap around song. "Cold Crush" is a mod flush of sound images that lift and take us away from the mundane. Estelle's voice is a crystal charm and this song arrangement simply lets her voice fill the room. This may be the hit of the summer !.
6. Don't Break It
7. Break My Heart (Feat. Rick Ross)
The opening of this track has a familiar sound, the echo of a throwback with a contemporary edge. Estelle carries this well, and my hope is that the Homeschool/Atlantic labels support this artist to break out even more into her own sound because her voice is so unique.
8. Thank You
Reverb echo mixing here with classic soul production introduces 'Thank You,' which describes the raw pain of a breakup, counter intuitively offering gratitude for the lessons learned. What I've read about this song points to a real emergence of connection from Estelle to the song writing team who works with her. She brings her life experience to all that she does. There is a lot of talk about how genuinely this is performed, with the audience crying along with the soul diva as she belts her heart out.
9. Who We Are
10. Wonderful Life
Piano sequences start out this pop track stating the world can fall apart, but you can still be OK, (a Bobby McFerrin "Don't Worry Be Happy" or a Bruno Mars' "Lazy Day" theme). Estelle shows vocal control, tempering her voice, like many great singers, she does what is good for the song.
11. Found My Way
12. Back To Love
Building to a dance record, "Back to Love" has clarity and hope for moving forward amidst real strife and disappointment. Estelle's voice is in a lower key which shows her range. These last few songs will turn out to be great club tracks.
13. Blue Skies
Narrative track, who doesn't want a 'shiney suit?"
14. Speak Ya Mind
Chaka, Aretha, Etta, and the rest of the "Every Woman" song queens, would approve of this 'be yourself no matter what your size, shape, or creed' shout out. Estelle's voice lets the tempo of the track lead.
15. Do My Thing (Feat. Janelle Monáe)
Clap your hands! Groovy 1960's mod runs uptown and bold Estelle is back to top it off with great vocals. Listen to the lyrics, they are right on ! What fun to just hang out walkin around being who you are, because you can !
"All Of Me"
While reviewing this album in its entirety, I came away understanding Estelle's talent as broad in many areas. She can sing anything, with anybody, really. The narrative tracks, lyrics, arrangements and raw energy of the record projects a message of independence to the audience and encourages their autonomy too. There are some pop hits, R&B smooth grooves, rap productions and fun dance tracks. In a sense, Estelle gave all of herself to this record, the many facets fans will discover with each listen.
The new album "All of Me," heralded two singles, "Fall In Love (Feat. Nas)," and "Break My Heart (Feat. Rick Ross)," which are both available through Estelle's website, www.estellemusic.com.
It is with great privilege that I thank Homeschool/Atlantic Records for allowing me to review this album pre-release. Not only have I admired Estelle as an artist, I have followed the Atlantic Records label for decades. I was in attendance at both the 40th Anniversary of Atlantic Records as well as the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute in London. This website has strong ties to blues history and classic rock, and very much like Ahmet's vision, we celebrate all genres of music. In an interview with Jon Butcher Axis and Charlie Farren last year, the musicians talked about the timing of a record's release and how Ahmet Ertegun would pace the label to keep the diversity. They said as song writers, you respected him as a legend and music had a sense of "Ertegun time". We are Atlantic followers and it is our hope that this spirit of music adventure will continue for decades to come.
"It is a great life, this life of music." ~ Ahmet Ertegun.
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