Estelle: Shine Album Review

It’s John Legend’s protégé! In the context of music today, some might say it took him a little long to give all-due shine to Estelle, who co-wrote on Once Again. English-native Estelle can now join the English-female artist invasion that was headed by Winehouse and Lily Allen. The buzz around Estelle revolved heavily on Lauryn Hill comparisons because of her rapping/singing abilities. With the dropping of Shine, the comparison can come to a screeching halt. Less Lauryn Hill and more Lily Allen singing and of Natalie Stewart (former Floetry member) rapping can sum up the vocal familiarity in Estelle.Shine has on board the typical array of writers, producers and features you would expect from a new artist with strong backing. Kanye West features on “American Boy” throwing raps over a disco-beat that was a musical track called “Impatient” on Will.I.Am’s solo project. With a little creativity and signature, Estelle made it into her debut single, and what many know her for. Never has a foreign artist’s commitment to woo us Americans been so unconcealed – “…take me to NY, I’d love to see LA.”Grammy winning John Legend co-writes 9 out of 12 tracks, makes a couple of audible backing vocals, and a feature with “You Are.” You guessed right, a love song. You wouldn’t be able to guess other wise if it weren’t for the lyrics. It’s difficult to get any feeling from the songs, as Estelle’s infliction only leads you to believe that she’s singing. It’s still a sultry combination as Estelle and Legend’s tones intertwine coolly.As the flagship artist for John Legend’s label “Old School Records” Estelle dabbles into very familiar sounds, like the neo-soul “Back In Love” with speak-sing vocals that sound like Jilly from Philly. “In The Rain” plays with a sample loop that may take you back to last year on Lily Allen’s debut album. If you listen closely, both Lily and Estelle could sing that track. What happened? No duet?Estelle covers pop/R&B, Hip-Hop, and reggae ground and swings it out of the park when the focus is on reggae. The Supa Dups produced “Come Over,” the Mark Ronson produced “Magnificent,” “More Than Friends” and “No Substitute Love” (sampling George Michael’s 1988 hit “Faith”) really carves out Estelle’s uniqueness– and the fact that she might have just made an album for the 2008 summer season. Ultimately, it’s all very English pop with a tad bit of Caribbean zest. For that, kudos are in order for an original combination.