Album: All of Me
Released on: February 29, 2012
British singer and Grammy Award winning artist Estelle has released her junior album entitled, All of Me. Led by her debut single featuring rapper Rick Ross “Break My Heart”, which charted at number 30 on the Billboard US R&B Chart, generated buzz and followed by the second single “Thank You”, which peaked at number 22 on the US R&B chart, All of Me was an anticipated release. Critics have made past comparisons of Estelle to Lauryn Hill and with the setup of interludes All of Me has, it is a definite nod to “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. The skits can be described as classroom dialogue pieces that discussed issues of love and life. The producers and writers of All of Me are David Banner, Carvin & Ivan, Akon, Stacy Barthe, Don Cannon, Ray Angry, Ne-yo and others.
The album opens with “The Life”, which begins acapella with stacked vocals and Estelle raps for the first and second verses, then sings on the b-section. I love the energy of the track! It is a hard-hitting instrumental and a good way to introduce her third LP. The follow-up track “International (Serious)” is an unexpected collaboration featuring singers Trey Songz & Chris Brown and it holds the same intensity as the opening track. The song has reggae elements in the vocal phrasing and Estelle offers more bars of her rapping, but my favorite part of the song is the pre-chorus where her vocals seemingly glide over the track effortlessly. Estelle shines on “Love the Way We Used To” and the song contains a retro, throwback feel.
“Cold Crush” personifies 80s music to the fullest. After I listened twice, I loved the track. The standout segment is the bridge where Estelle displays really nice background harmonies. “Break My Heart” is another track that begins in acapella fashion and this is a song that I love everything about. When I first heard the track, I became so excited for Estelle’s return. The production and vocals were great and the feature from Rick Ross added a nice & smooth accompaniment. On the Akon-penned “Thank You”, Estelle bares her soul and it’s almost the only track on the album that show vulnerability, which is what I wanted for the entire project because the album’s title should have been reflective in every song. The track is about being in a relationship that ends sour and finding that even though it did not work, you took it as a growing experience and lesson learned. Estelle stated the inspiration for “Wonderful Life” came at a point, where she grew tired of performing her most recognizable hit “American Boy” and she felt it was appropriate to note the defining moment when she realized that she should not take her career and many blessings for granted.With “Back to Love” the track started off with beautiful violin inserts that reminded me of Coldplay’s ”Viva La Vida”, as well as, a dope drum pattern that I loved sonically, but Estelle’s voice does not mesh well with the track. It sounded as if the track had swallowed her up and the vocals were completely out of sync, in reference to rhythmic musicality. “Speak Ya Mind” had a hot instrumental with nice drums and an interpolation of “It Takes Two” by Rob Base. Estelle gave a quick shout-out of recognition to Lauryn Hill’s “Miseducation” and melodically, the hook was reminiscent of “Freak Like Me” by Adina Howard. On the track, Estelle gave us more bars in rap stanza, but for the singing portion, the vocals would have been better, if she pushed a bit harder. When Estelle should have taken it up a notch vocally, she remained safe. With “Do My Thing”, I finally received what I was hoping for. The track demonstrated a mixture of genres and had a refreshing vibe alongside one of my favorite artists, Janelle Monáe. If the label considers releasing the song as a single, I feel André 3000 would unquestionably be the perfect fit to embellish the track for a remix.
I wanted to love every song on All of Me because I am a fan of Estelle, but some areas of vocal execution were mediocre, I felt that she did not push herself and exhibit any growth during hiatus. I love Estelle’s voice, however she tends to sing at speaking level for the majority of the album, which did not showcase range and with her last studio album being released four years ago, I felt the production and vocals could have been much more compelling. Also, for me, the album did not feel introspective at all based upon the album title. It had virtually no raw, soul-searching or heart-stirring moments and felt as if, the tracks were placed together without concept or connection and All of Me should have been an avenue for Estelle to allow her supporters more depth into her real life experiences, but fell short.