Estelle’s current obscurity in R&B is simply a shame. She continues to delivers excellent material that both separates from and harkens back to her 2008 breakout single, “American Boy.” Her latest album, “True Romance,” finds the British songstress navigating the themes of relationships and heartache through an eclectic mix of R&B sounds and some stylistically-different tracks. While the deviations from her usual repertoire can be hit-or-miss, Estelle is at her best when she mixes and matches various genres — such as disco, reggae and pop — with her soft, soulful voice.
The album begins with the hand clap-heavy “Time After Time” in which Estelle declares the bliss of being in a relationship with lyrics such as: “I wrote this song to tell you you’re perfect and you’re worth it.” Later in the album, Estelle channels 90s singer Crystal Waters in the wonderfully retro “Something Good / Devotion (Passion Interlude).” The first half of this six-minute song starts as a disco house track until it eventually slows its tempo, showing off Estelle’s slinky, seductive voice.
The album does have its drawbacks, most notably occurring when Estelle strays from her typical R&B style. Her voice strains when she tries to match the anthemic intensity of the backing horns and drums in “Conquerer.” While she confidently explores feminine sexuality on the raunchy “Make Her Say (Beat It Up)” and “Time Share (Suite 509),” both tracks come across as largely forgettable and too minimalist.
Standouts on the album include “Silly Girls,” which contains a mesh of high-pitched vocalizing, horns and violins, all together creating a 70s-inspired vibe. With lyrics such as, “Mama said silly girls, they always wanted love / And pretty girls protect their heart too much,” Estelle delves into the nature of breakups and broken hearts with timeless aphorisms. Another stunning song is the ballad, “All That Matters,” which relies on Estelle’s soft soprano and a beautiful piano melody to close out the album. The song’s simplicity is proof that Estelle still maintains a capable voice and a talent for genre mixing that should not be overlooked by the R&B music industry.