Estelle, who burst onto the scene in 2004 with her debut album The 18th Day and then went stateside and became more well-known with ‘American Boy’ and her second album Shine, is back. All Of Me is the London-born rapper and singer’s third album which sees her go back to her original musical roots, making music that talks about her life, not about wanting a boy because of where he was from in order to get a big hit.
The album opens with probably the only two tracks you’re likely to hear in a club, ‘The Life’ and ‘International (Serious)’, with their hard-hitting hip-hop beats carrying the lyrics about Estelle’s life-changing and status-boosting decision to sign a deal in the US and further her career. The former has her doing a ‘cocky rap’ because people have said she’s ‘ever so clean to the point that she stank’, reeling off a list of global cities like Pitbull and she even refers back to her debut single ‘1980’. The latter, which features Chris Brown and Trey Songz, also contains the names of numerous cities as the three of them brag about jet-setting everywhere and being international stars.
However, throughout the vast bulk of the album, Estelle decides to show off her singing talents more than her rapping abilities as she croons her way through a number of mid-tempo, neo-soul and R&B ballads, most of which cover the subjects of love and relationships, such as ‘Cold Crush’, ‘Break My Heart (featuring Rick Ross)’ and ‘Back To Love’, which show a different, rare and sentimental side to her. Unfortunately, they are far less ingenious than songs by Lauryn Hill and Mary J Blige, who are better known for mastering this sound.
The five skits, which take up a third of the entire album, are intimate recordings of talks with her American friends about different aspects of life – similar to that of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of – but here they seem dated, unnecessary and rather cheesy.
After the disappointment of the majority of the songs after ‘International (Serious)’, the two best tracks are left to the end – ‘Speak Ya Mind’ and ‘Do My Thing (featuring Janelle Monáe)’ and almost make up for it. The inspirational ‘Speak Ya Mind’ encourages young people to do just what the title of the song says and here Estelle directly refers to the aforementioned Miss Hill, one of this LP’s obvious influences, when she says ‘I just want them to start pullin’ out The Miseducation again’.
But it is the final track ‘Do My Thing’ where Estelle pairs up with rising star Janelle Monáe for a funky, soulful and toe-tapping end to All Of Me which is a clear standout on a largely average album. ‘Do My Thing’ is actually more reminiscent of Janelle’s own distinctive sound as heard on her album rather than Estelle’s, and ironically, this potential hit’s lyrics speak of defining and sticking to one’s own unique style – something Estelle didn’t do so much when she went from excellent breakout singles ‘1980’ and ‘Free’ to the heavily played and more commercial ‘American Boy’. But since it’s so good, we can let her off. Other recommended listens include ‘Wonderful Life’ and ‘Thank You’.
Estelle mixes all the different genres of music she has covered and the sounds she has defined for herself over the past two albums into one on All Of Me, and while some are nothing extra special, the very few gems on it are. On reflection, it is a shame that the David Guetta-produced ‘Freak’ and ‘Fall In Love’, which had both been released back in 2010 but were scrapped from the track listing due to their underperformance, were not on this album, as they would have actually been nice additions.