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Album review: Estelle's 'All of Me'

February 27, 2012 |  4:23 pm

Estelle's 'All of Me'

British native Estelle used her West End lilt for flirting with Kanye West in their 2009 Grammy-winning collaboration, “American Boy,” but on her third album she seeks to break away from the coquettish spirit of that song. Leaning hard on some tough Kingston rhythms, she kicks off “All of Me” with a couple of rap-heavy tracks, demanding room to be herself. The songs are a bit cluttered with cameos from Chris Brown and Trey Songz but they win her independence.

By the fourth track, Estelle sounds like Lily Allen at her most docile. But the real model for “All of Me” isn’t her fellow Londoner; it’s Lauryn Hill, who married soul, dance hall-laced hip-hop and the most doo-wop strains of R&B on her landmark 1998 album. Estelle can trade in any of these formats too but she’s not as rawly charismatic as Hill.

The Akon-penned single “Thank You” showcases Estelle’s ability to sound pushed to her limits but never broken. In a further testament to her skills, she somehow manages to make king pimp Rick Ross sound like a romantic on “Break My Heart.” Once a flirt, always a flirt — the girl can’t help it.

— Margaret Wappler

“All of Me”
3 stars (out of four)