Words by Kristal Roberts
Estelle has come a long way from “Take me on a trip/I wanna go somewhere”– the poppy chorus from her 2008 sophomore album hit American Boy.
Born in West London to a Senegalese mother and a Grenadian father, Estelle Swaray was only allowed to listen to traditional African music and American gospel as a young lass, but after she was exposed to hip-hop, she realized she was destined for a career in music.
Years later, American Boy launched Estelle from the London music scene, to a successful, Grammy-award winning international starlet, now with a decade plus long career.
In her personal life, the British singer did in fact nab an American boy and fell crazy in love, but as with many whirlwind romances, there was no happy ever after.
She touched on the pain and heartache of her failed four-year relationship in her third studio album, All of Me, but in her latest album, True Romance, Estelle explores every facet of relationships—covering the sweet, sexy, angry, raunchy and reflective moments, all in one go.
The album opens with Time After Time, an R&B track with a hip-hop flair that sets the tone for the album’s body of work and speaks to many relationships– “It might not be perfect, but at least it’s real.”
When it comes to the album’s sound, the 35-year-old’s music doesn’t neatly fit into one box.
Something Good is a nod to the early 90’s dance music sound, complete with funky piano bars and a mid-tempo beat. With Estelle singing, “I got something good for ya baby,” you could get lost voguing to this nostalgic groove. It’s such a feel-good track, it’s easy to miss the tragedy-turned-triumph message: “I was hurt for so long/doesn’t matter who was right/doesn’t matter who was wrong/all that matters is I’m back where I belong.”
The message of triumph continues in Conqueror, where she explains, “Life is like a merry-go round/you’re up then you’re down,” and essentially we all fall on our faces sometimes. But encouraging us to find strength in our experiences and stand in our truth, she belts out, “I’d rather stand tall than live on my knees” in this powerful anthem/ballad.
For anyone who has ever smiled through the pain during a tough relationship, it may sound like Estelle’s singing from a page in your diary on The Same.
“They think we’re the Cosbys/everything is lovely/but everything’s going wrong…You don’t like my mother/I hated your brother/how did we last so long.”
Some of the more unexpected, head-turning surprises in this album are Estelle’s sex-fueled tracks which unabashedly dive right into it, like Make Her Say (Beat It Up). In this sexy, seductive song, Estelle isn’t so much singing as she is reciting lusty, breathy spoken word poetry to the beat.
“Impatient to show me/your love below…come a bit closer/come take a peek,” she says before blowing a kiss to punctuate her sexy lyrics. The accompanying video that was released for Make Her Say is equally forward, featuring some couples in taboo relationships with taboo turn-ons. Let’s just say it could have easily fit onto the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack without missing a beat.
Other notable tracks include Gotcha Love, which highlights the sweetest parts of falling in love before hitting the lows where you have to give a relationship everything you got, like in Fight For It.
In sum, True Romance is a bit of hip-hop, dance, electronic dance, soul and reggae, serenading listeners through the roller coaster of emotions that come with relationships, all wrapped up in a deeply satisfying compilation that just might make you fall in love.