Album review: Estelle – True Romance

True Romance's warmer sound owes more to house music and adult contemporary pop than gritty R&B.
True Romance by Estelle.
True Romance by Estelle.

Estelle

True Romance

(Established 1980 Records)

Two stars

Other than for the good payday, it seemed weird that Estelle returned to the UAE last year to perform at the fancy Formula One shindig Amber Lounge rather than her usual club set.

In retrospect, it was a wise choice for previewing her fourth album True Romance. The hard-edged urban beats of previous releases have been smoothed out by a warmer sound that owes more to house music and adult contemporary pop than gritty R&B.

That said, Estelle’s spiky character remains intact. True Romance is partly conceptual in that it traces the bliss and travails of being in love. It’s not all roses and holidays, Estelle seems to say: relationships are hard work.

Time After Time has an adventurous production, with hypnotic staccato beats that eventually fall into a radio-friendly chorus. Timeshare, another standout, has Estelle’s smoky vocals swirl and prod the dense production of whirring beats. The 11 tracks do a solid job in conjuring an introspective mood – however, you sometimes pine for the immediacy of Estelle’s earlier works.

In Fight For It, Estelle and producers seemed to be in love with its own sound. Sure, it all comes across as pretty, particularly on headphones, with supple Middle Eastern percussion, warm keyboards and the cooing vocals – but halfway through you are wondering whether it is actually going anywhere. At least Gotcha Love manages to pique some interest – the down-tempo beats and Estelle’s soulful performance are vigorous enough to not render the track to a coffee-shop soundtrack. If it wasn’t for this continuous desire to hold back, The Same and the reggae-tinged Silly Girls could have been hits, and the album as a whole could have been that little bit more accessible. Instead, True Romance ultimately sounds too weighed down to warrant repeated listens.

sasaeed@thenational.ae

Published: March 16, 2015 04:00 AM

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