Album Review: Estelle’s Shine

By on Thursday, 14th August 2008 at 7:32 pm

Estelle is back with her second album following her 18th Day LP which had a lack lustre receipt from fans, crawling to number 35 in the charts. With time in the USA and the nestling under the wing of the neo-soul-serenading John Legend she presents a record that has a lot to boast in the way of features and power-house producers such as Will.I.Am and Wyclef Jean. Unfortunately a move in this direction begs the question, does their potent presence highlight an incapability within the star herself?

Perhaps it was under the advice of Legend that such a move was made, but she confidently silences her critics with the explosion of her first track ‘Wait a minute (No Substitute)’. Despite the fact that this track didn’t even make the top 100, its sound is a sweet reminder of Estelle’s clear capabilities to handle herself on a track, comfortably rhyming over the horns, as well as lacing some softer tones with her singing throughout the chorus and closing.

She follows this with ‘No Substitute’ where the heavy bass lines compliment her sweeter side as she strums her lyrics over the claps and beats produced by Wyclef Jean with a sassy sample from none other than George Michael’s Faith. She continues her roll with the smash hit American Boy, a guest appearance from Kanye West, helped catapult this track to world domination. Making use of his typically predictable simple Simon lyrical style with its slow purposeful drawl delivered over a club banger beat made this a highlight of the album.

Once you’ve completed the first quarter of listening it is nice to note Estelle’s ability to croon comfortably between the genres. Venturing into neo soul territory appeared to be an effortless manoeuvre for her, as does the intricately lacing of rhythmic rhymes that remind her listeners of her West London roots. These not only force a smile but possibly invite a nod of approval for those that thought her trip to the states would have introduced an unfamiliar and unwanted accent.

Kardinal Offishal makes an appearance on Magnificent and invites listeners to turn the lights down a notch or two as we seemingly head into the more intimate part of the album. If your other half is with you when this song comes on its time to throw a scarf over the lamp, jump up and slow grind or two step, whatever your rhythm this song will cater to it, even in the absence of a dance partner, cup your slow ice melting drink, close your eyes and do the shoe shuffle with a happy hazy smile on your face and all is well.

Unfortunately if you’ve been sipping on your juice, Come Over may soothe your senses into a sleepy state, not necessarily a good thing if you want to listen to the rest of the album. By the time you reach this point in the album it is hard to ignore the Lauryn Hill similarities, her ability to shimmy between a lyricist and songtress with such ease is inspiring and somewhat infuriating, is it really fair to house all this talent in one frame?

Had Estelle stepped up as a neo soul artist then perhaps the slow soul filled jams would be recognised as the powerfully personality infused tracks they are, however on the back of American Boy and the song’s presentation of one of her dimensions there is a strong chance many will feel the album takes the ‘wrong’ turn at Come Over and that is struggles to regain its ‘oomph’, even the Motown influenced track Pretty Please(Love Me) with powerful input from Cee-Lo and some nice piano playing from Legend himself this song may come a little too late for those that expected an entire album of floor and rump shaking tracks.

I love how her final track acts as a wake-up call for her listeners who may have lulled into a dreamy daze compliments of the numerous mellow melodies. Shine may prove to be one of the favourites on this album, mainly because of the way it reminds her audience of all that she is, her un-dillutable London sound as well as her refusal to be compartmentalised into any one genre. All in all the album has a little something for everyone, jazz listeners, soul-sound chasers and the hip-hop hungry will find something to bob their head to on this CD.

Copyright © Onome Okwuosa 2008. All rights reserved.

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