As the late Aaliyah said, “if at first you don’t succeed dust yourself off and try again,” and that’s exactly what the 27-year-old British singer Estelle did. Now she is in a much better place as she makes her stateside debut with the release, “Shine.”
“Wait a Minute (Just a Touch),” produced by will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, is the lead single, which revamps “I Put a Spell on You,” by Screamin Jay Hawkins. While the lyrics are catchy on the horn-driven track it doesn’t make a significant dent on the charts as anticipated.
Kanye West is featured on the second single, “American Boy,” which finds Estelle singing about American boys and cities she would like to visit while West cleverly raps about dressing like a “London Bloke,” and “Wags,” in an attempt to blend the two cultures. The track has proven to be a transatlantic hit.
While it is hard for most to shine on a track with the never dull West, Estelle seems to have no problem holding her own on the song. This could easily have been her first single, using Kanye’s star power to help boost her career, but she wisely chose to step out on her own opting to have no one featuring on her first single.
A song people will automatically connect with is “More than Friends,” where Estelle seeks to transition from her role of friends with benefits to the role of girlfriend. In the mid-tempo song she raps, “don’t play me like an extra, I got speaking roles,” and later she tells her guy “you got your own sock drawer; you can call me much more.”
Shine, the first release from singer John Legend’s label Homeschool Records, includes production from Wyclef, Swizz Beats and Mark Ronson, while eclectically blending R’B, hip-hop, reggae and jazz.
Flames ignite between Legend and Estelle on the track “You Are,” as they sing about love at its peak. Legend was also featured on Estelle’s 2004 release “The 18th Day.”
The percussion driven title track was produced by Swizz Beats. Although this song is up-tempo, it is unlike most of the beats he usually does for other hip-hop artists he works with. Estelle’s singing and rhyming style is similar to Sheila E’s “Glamorous Life.”
“Pretty Please (Love Me),” joins Estelle with Cee-Lo and is a feel good song reminiscent of the soulful days of the ’60s with Diana Ross and the Supremes.
Ronson switches up his production style on the reggae influenced song “Magnificent” which features Kardinal Offishall.
The overall subject matter of the CD deals with the joy and complexities of being in and out of love. When dealing with love at its best the song “Come Over,” is an undeniable dance-hall ballad; when it’s on the rocks the song “So Much Out the Way” has Estelle singing and rapping about getting rid of a partner who lacks ambition.
After hearing the many Wyclef produced tracks, people will automatically make comparisons to Lauryn Hill, who was known for effortlessly switching back and forth between singing and rapping. Hill was the best at what she did, but Estelle has picked up the ball that she dropped and is now running with it.
Another song channels George Michael’s “Faith” for “No Substitute Love” where she breaks it off with a cheating boyfriend.
While this album has many of the industry’s best artist and producers, Estelle does not hide behind them trying to create a buzz for herself. She is great with or without the features and her talent keeps her in the forefront and not lost among the album’s guests.
She doesn’t conform to the industry stereotypes of what a “successful” female singer should look like today. Her hair doesn’t flow down her back and she doesn’t wear revealing dresses, instead she chooses to let her voice speak for her talent and proudly wears a short bob-like cut and a crooked smile.