It's been six years since the release of Estelle's iconic breakthrough single, 'American Boy', a song whose unabashed cool factor ensures that it continues to get played on late-night MTV rotation to this day. And while a lot has changed in the music scene since 2008 (thank god that endless beef between Christina and Gaga was put to rest), one thing that remains a constant is Estelle's ability to impress with not only awe-inspiring R&B vocals, but also with fresh complexities of sound which put most modern day rappers to shame.
True Romance, the follow-up to 2012's All Of Me, proves this once again, and features the singer exploring the four main phases of love - courage, passion, true romance, and bullshit - over an eclectic, exciting mix of genres which nevertheless comes together to make a cohesive, unique album. Take the opening track, 'Time After Time', which over the course of four minutes evolves from a jolting sample into a nearly acapella-style ballad, then into a super-percussive reggae-inspired track, before concluding with some throwback disco synths and strings. It may sound exhausting, but like Kanye's masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy before her, Estelle is able to act as master curator for all the sounds featured and use her voice to bring them together in unison.
As a result of this, the album never lulls you into relaxation - it's active listening which will always keep you on your toes. Estelle switches from a high-tempo, urban banger bound to make your mother blush in 'Make Her Say (Beat It Up)' (whose refrain consists only of "Beat the pussy up") to an experimental track based on the ticking of clocks in 'Time Share' without batting an eyelash. 'Not Sure', the kind of track which David Guetta wishes he could produce, and a bonus track on the album, features lyrics such as "No I'm not sure/What I'm doing/I got my hands all over you"; but it wouldn't be nearly as effective if it hadn't been for 'All That Matters', probably the most straightforward track on the album, which acts as a welcome reprieve from the relentless pace of Estelle's brain with sweeter, softer lyrics such as "If the sun should go away from here/It don't matter/Cos with you I shine/And if these clouds keep you from coming near/It don't matter/You're already mine".
If anything, the only disappointing thing about this album is the lack of promotion it seems to have received. Initially intended to be released today (November 4th), the album now seems to have been pushed back to February 17th of next year, and, bizarrely, has received barely any buzz around it - all this despite the killer video released for 'Make Her Say (Beat It Up)' which features real couples getting together in the bedroom. With such an amazing product on their hands, it seems a shame that Estelle's label (New London Records, which she launched, and which is a subsidiary of BMG) has stinged on the advertising budget. Estelle's already got the talent, in bucketloads in fact - now she just needs the industry support to match.