There were a number of hold-ups in the process of getting Estelles album released in a post-Nicki Minaj world, one in which her R&B/neo-soul scene has been largely overtaken by newcomers. 2008s Shine won over more than a few American boys, showing a vocal flexibility in the most glamorous and disco-popping of ways. Who can imagine 2008 without reciting Kanye Wests American Boy verses (Before he speak his suit bespoke/And you thought he was cute before/Look at this pea coat, tell me he’s broke!)? Estelle grew confident in both singing and rapping in multiple genres, and also had the luck to have big-name producers (Mark Ronson, Swizz Beatz, Will.i.am) on hand, as well as noteworthy guest appearances (Cee-Lo Green, Kanye West).
Now, with a Rick Ross assist, she returns to the game on Break My Heart. After an annoyingly over-the-top startwannabe dance-club anthem The Life, and International (Serious) which unfortunately features Chris BrownEstelle has nowhere to go but up for the remainder of All of Me. She gets away with the retro-soul vibe on Love the Way We Used To, while the funky Do My Thing featuring Janelle Monae empowers. Estelle is at ease making soul-pop gems like this, songs that dont require too much thinking.
The classroom conversations that are inserted as interludes, just like Estelles favorite album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, are dated, and if its done in tribute, its the least she could do. The downside of All of Me lies in the fact that this album arrived just a little too late. Since Shine, Estelle was eclipsed by Adele and the ghost of Amy Winehouse. If she can build upon whats here and deliver it at a quicker rate, she might have a chance of rising to diva status.
Essential Tracks: Wonderful Life, Break My Heart, and Back to Love