Music's British Invasion, Remembering the '80s and Once Again, The Roots Go Deep

A review of Estelle, Santogold and The Roots.

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Estelle, Shine

I guess no one saw this coming since Paul Revere didn't saddle up in a Dodge Charger flying down I-495 yelling that the British are coming. But they're here, and it is a shame that American soul music sounds much better through European lungs.

With Amy Winehouse "Elvis-ing" her way into the American lexicon with plush lyrics and strong vocals, Floetry swooning melodic tunes and Ms. Dynamite's light-hearted sing-songy flow, U.K. artists have charted course for new artists Lily Allen, Duffy, Adele and most recently, MC/singer/songwriter Estelle.

Her sophomore album Shine on John Legend's HomeSchool Records shows all of Estelle's musical talents from her honey-tinged vocals to her women's lib lyricism. On "Just A Touch" she warns all comers that rushing into her bed will not be happening anytime soon. On "No Substitute Love" she croons about no longer accepting side fling status. It is clear that Estelle isn't having it, what's also clear is that she is not Lauryn Hill.

Not that she is trying to be the famed Grammy winner, but whenever there is a female singer/songwriter/MC there will always be the comparisons to Hill, arguably the best to ever do all three. It also doesn't help Estelle's cause that Wyclef Jean produces two tracks on her album that sound pitch perfect for Hill's voice. At the pinnacle of being a slash artist is Hill, and unfortunately for Estelle, everyone else is just a close second.

Now, being second isn't always bad, in the history of music seconds aren't always sloppy. When Estelle shines brightest is when she doesn't push the songs out of her diaphragm but merely lets her voice ride over the beat like an instrument.

On "Back in Love" her voice creeps into your neck to loosen that device that allows the rhythmic nod, the head bob, and that's hip-hop. She explains to a lover that love, in all its complexities, is attainable and ultimately fair, even in its misgivings, and she is happy to have a second chance. "Back in Love" is redemption at is best on this album— where the production is laced with heavyweights (Jean, Swizz Beatz, and Jack Splash) that highlight them rather than showcase Estelle's gifts.

Not to mention the countless cameos (Cee-Lo, Kanye West, Kardinal Offishall and of course Mr. Legend himself) that steal Estelle's shine. In fact, the only collabo that slightly works is the first single, the produced "American Boy" with Kanye West where Estelle sings about wanting to meet an American boy to show her all the American sights, and Kanye does what Kanye does best, rap about Kanye. It isn't that this album is bad but with too many producers and too many cameos, Estelle's musical vision doesn't always shine through.

Santogold, Santogold