“You can take your opinions and eat cheese,” says Estelle Swaray on “The Life,” the first track from her latest record. All of Me may not be filled with classics, but this West London girl doesn’t seem to care that much.
Estelle, now right at home in New York City, follows up SHINE with an album that largely focuses on love and love gone wrong. There are skits that pop up from time to time and they attempt to set the scene of a casual conversation, as if Estelle’s songs are parts of the larger dialogue and are taking place with friends over wine at a local watering hole. The trouble with the interludes is that they don’t always work as well as they should to frame things in conversational fashion.
There’s little doubting Estelle’s voice and presence. Her “American Boy,” the second single from SHINE, is probably still her best known track, but there are some tunes on All of Me that could solidify her to North American audiences.
Unfortunately, the record’s initial drive didn’t land all that well. A cut called “Freak,” featuring the services of Kardinal Offishall and the production of David Guetta, was supposed to be the first single. It didn’t do well on the charts and was eventually left off the record because, well, business is business. The second kick at the can, the planned second single “Fall in Love,” suffered the same boardroom fate.
The REAL first single, then, is “Break My Heart.” It features Rick Ross and his bearded rap shtick along with Estelle’s smooth tones. “I can be so pretentious,” she sings, “but he likes me all the same.”
“International (Serious)” unfortunately alerts us that Estelle is on Team Breezy and features the services of Chris Brown and Trey Songz. The track talks about Estelle’s jet-setting lifestyle and Brown raps/sings about things he enjoys apart from beating up women, smashing windows and stealing iPhones. The track is sharp and current, with Estelle referencing “hash tags” with her rapid delivery, but it’s also fairly forgettable and isn’t quite the earworm it should be.
Luckily Estelle’s effort with the bloody awesome Janelle Monáe fares better. “Do My Thing,” the last cut on All of Me, bursts with funk and cocksure gusto.
All of Me is largely free of big moments and entirely memorable tracks, sadly, but it is a well-produced and nicely done slice of R&B and hip hop. Coupling notes of reggae with exuberant rap swag and Estelle’s contagious London oomph, the Grammy-winner’s third does alright in the end.