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Album Review: Estelle - 'Shine'

'Shine' On

About.com Rating 4 Star Rating

By

Album Review: Estelle - 'Shine'
Cover © Homeschool/Atlantic.
It only takes one hand to count the number of British female R&B singers who have been successful as solo artists in the United States. But although her North American debut album, Shine, isn't likely to rocket to the top of the charts once it's released on April 29, 2008, the album just might camp out on the charts for a long time as more and more people find out about this talented woman. Shine is definitely a fitting title, as Estelle truly shines here and shows off her versatility as a vocalist. R&B, Soul, Hip-Hop, Pop, Reggae - she tackles them all here, and masters each with style.

Buoyant

British singer Estelle may be a friend and protege of John Legend, but her music is a lot more buoyant that Legend's cool, laid-back lounge singer-type style. And on her U.S. debut, Estelle's completed an album that's chock-full of catchy, instantly-likeable songs. The most well-known of them (at least currently) is probably "American Boy," a charming duet with Kanye West. On the song, Kanye raps about wags and pounds and blokes and peacoats, while Estelle sings about her longing to visit San Francisco, New York and Kanye's hometown of Chicago.

Kanye is one of many artists who guests on the album, with others including Cee-Lo on the '70s soul soundalike "Pretty Please (Love Me)" and John Legend himself on the album's lone slow jam, "You Are." One of the reasons the album is so good is Estelle's fresh voice and perspective. Here in the U.S., many times artists copy one other - using the same hit producers, borrowing one another's vocal style, intentionally making soundalike songs - but Estelle's having none of that. Her style is uniquely her own, despite that numerous big-name producers (will.i.am., Wyclef Jean, Mark Ronson and others) were brought in to guide the album.

Fresh Air

Cover © Homeschool/Atlantic.
Partly because of her British accent and partly because of her different perspective in her songs, Estelle is a real breath of fresh air for R&B music. On Shine, she's able to take relationship topics that have been done to death and manages to make them sound fresh. A good example is the will.i.am.-produced first single, "Wait A Minute (Just A Touch)," in which Estelle sweetly - and cockily - sings about how her lovin' is so good and how she's not going to let it go to waste:
"My loves so professional, just because were kissin' don't mean were undressin', no/You ain't creepin' and suggestin' those freaky little things we could do cause the answers no/Baby I got let you know, if and when the time comes for me and you sex is slow/Wrap it up cause I ain't carryin' your embryo, you're starin' at a woman that would slap your arse to the flo'."
Other tired topics, like cheating lovers, secret lovers, lying lovers, etc. also get new life, thanks to Estelle's fine singing on songs like the uptempo "No Substitute Love," the part-time lover song "More Than Friends" and the reggae-tinged "Magnificent," which features Kardinal Offishall. From top to bottom, Shine is a solid album and definitely worth getting.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the record label. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.

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