Estelle – All of Me album review

Estelle’s third album, All of Me, features an elegantly classic black and white cover, all shadows and contrast. The artist made the jump from the U.K. to America because she believes she wasn’t taken seriously as an R & B singer and took some time off from 2008’s “Shine”, which featured her Grammy Award-winning song, American Boy.

For all her looking like a smoky-eyed chanteuse, the material ends up being pretty lightweight in intensity and  doesn’t deliver. There’s no discernable theme, if you will to what she is trying to be: a bluesy rapper, a hip hop R&B-er or a sultry pop diva. She is competing with the likes of Adele and Lauren Hill, powerhouse vocalists who know what genre of music they are in at the moment and go after it full-force. Estelle is tentative and uncommitted to a particular sound and ends up sounding watered-down. Produced by Don Cannon and Jerry Duplessis, there really should be more organization and clarity to the tracks.

Love the Way We Used To  has an odd time signature and ends up sounding like a mashup of two songs, in the way that listening to two songs through the same set of headphones does and is mostly irritating.

There are a couple of spoken tracks that sounds like parts of interviews thrown in to do…what? Don’t Break it  has a musical underlay to a discussion of breakups, so I don’t know if it’s the music that is the focus or the sentiments of whomever is speaking. I assume Estelle is in there, but who is she talking to?

Speak Ya Mind and Do My Thing (with Janelle Monae) are fun hip hop tracks, practically begging for radio play, but Break My Heart (featuring Rick Ross) and Thank You have already been released as singles. Estelle teamed up with Chris Brown on International (Serious), although neither she nor the track needs him and it gets kind of crowded in there with Trey Songz vying for airtime.

Estelle has the chops to do R & B and perhaps with a little more passion, to do hip hop very well. In this day of single-track downloads, it’s hard for an artist to hold their audience’s attention to follow the scheme of a whole album, if there is one. Estelle seems to want us to think there is a point to All of Me and by looking at the track listing, a listener might think it was about relationships. But don’t count on it.

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