Review Summary: Not without its flaws, ‘The 18th Day’ is a debut that contains more than enough positives to showcase the potential talent, vocal range and genre-mixing abilities of Estelle.
Collaborations have a lot to answer for when it comes to modern hip-hop. Bringing a number of mediocre performers popularity – and turning producers into vocalists by stealth – so-called musicians have become worldwide superstars by way of collaboration, instead of floundering in their own lack of talent if left to fend for themselves. Of course, the world would be a grumpy place if everyone was to judge the glass as half-empty and the opposite also holds true. One singer to be deservingly brought into the limelight by way of collaboration recently is English vocalist Estelle.
When the Kanye West assisted Grammy Award winning single ‘American Boy’ went top 10 in numerous countries, many were forced to ask “Who is Estelle?” Those who dug a little deeper would already know that the track is by no means her debut recording. In fact, Estelle released her debut album some four years earlier in October of 2004. Titled ‘The 18th Day’, it is a promising combination of hip-hop, soul and contemporary R&B. While that genre mix is one dominated by Americans, Estelle’s decidedly British approach makes the album sound fresh and original.
However, it is more than just an English accent which makes ‘The 18th Day’ succeed and nowhere is that more apparent than on lead single and album opener ‘1980’. Grossly under-appreciated, this is a fantastic autobiographical cut where Estelle recounts growing up in a large family environment and 1980s fads over the top of a smooth musical arrangement and solid beat. It is done in such a clear down-to-Earth and modest manner that it is easily relatable to (no matter where you reside), while the lack of boasting or any other posturing commonly associated with hip-hop artists is quite frankly a breath of fresh air.
Proactively, ‘The 18th Day’ does not rest on its laurels and the next three tracks showcase the range which Estelle has the talent to cover. ‘Don’t Talk’ brings the sleek & sexy, while ‘Dance Bitch’ uses a more American Missy Elliott like style that sees the Brit convey an almost authoritative like confidence. Yet, much like the comparable Lauren Hill, Estelle is at her best when rapping with her free-flowing distinctive accent during verses, and then showing the soulful strength of her singing voice during the chorus and backing vocals. This is best shown on track 4 ‘Change Is Coming’.
The following two tracks do not let up and continue to hammer home Estelle’s strengths, since they are the 3rd and 2nd singles respectively to be released from this debut LP. ‘Go Gone’ is a 1960s inspired cut which has a real positive energy about it that is difficult to dislike. Meanwhile, UK top 20 hit ‘Free’ is a groovy and catchy party anthem that features a value-adding 2nd verse by Megaman (from So Solid Crew).
‘The 18th Day’ threatens to run off the rails mid-album with three poor tracks placed consecutively. ‘I Wanna Love You’ is a nice two minute interlude that has its length doubled by mind-numbing repetition of its chorus. Then, ‘Maybe’ and ‘Crazy’ – which feel like one tedious ten minute track – painfully attempt to drag the pace right down to true ballad speed. Unfortunately, both are simply generic contemporary R&B dross that induces multiple yawns.
Following this mediocre trio up with a 6 minute track is dangerous, but co-singers John Legend and Baby Blue both add something fresh to ‘Hey Girl’, as their throwback vocals combine well with Estelle’s trademark delivery. While the remainder of the tracks are all solid and add their own qualities to the LP (the best being uplifting female anthem ‘On and On’), one cannot help but get the feeling that ‘The 18th Day’ is already overlong by this stage as it approaches the hour mark come the final running time. If only those middle three tracks were removed altogether!
‘The 18th Day’ is by no means a perfect record. It contains a number of flaws such as over-length and a want to occasionally move too far away from the singer’s strengths and bow to current trends from across the Atlantic. However, these are weaknesses which one could understand, and even expect, from a debut full-length release. And when such an album contains as many positives as ‘The 18th Day’ does, then the scattered negatives can easily be forgiven to some extent. Because when all is said and done, the potential talent, vocal range and genre-mixing abilities of Estelle are far too obvious and abundant here to overlook.
Recommended Tracks: 1980, Go Gone, Free & Change Is Coming.
DavID, you know the song... Either that or you simply looked up the lyrics. To be honest, I had not heard it until giving the whole album a listen a few months back, but apparently it actually did chart in Australia. Seriously, what do you think of that song?
You know what they say Croc; Variety is the splice of life mate. SputnikMusic would be a boring place if it was only metal, hard rock & punk being reviewed. Plus, haven't you seen my Craig David Appreciation pieces!?
More british music for Davey... well, review what you like if the reviews keep being this good!
Croc, you missed out Papa Roach I've still got my fingers crossed for some early Pink Floyd reviews, but I doubt they're his kind of thing.
Thanks Spamue1... And I think it's best if we all forget Papa Roach's latest album.
Unfortunately for yourself, you are correct... I have never really got in to Pink Floyd for some reason. I guess I've never tried all that hard though.
Oh man DavID, it's great to hear you say that. Like I said, I didn't hear the song when it first came out, but f**k it's good. But would you classify Estelle as pop? I didn't know what to pigeon-hole her into, but I eventually went with hip-hop...
You almost took the words right out of my mouth again DavID. Her newer album definitely could/should be classified as pop, but I can't say that with 'The 18th Day'... I'd almost say it was soul before pop. But there's a lot of hip-hop there too.
Man, you know me... I do not discriminate either way because an artist is popular or not. It makes no difference to me.
I am presuming you have heard this full album, but it hasn't been for a long while. If so, your rough rating...
Ahhh, I was wondering when my British friends would wake up & join the party. Fair call on not being able to listen to this as a whole Ross. It is actually a little ridiculous that it stretches out to nearing an hour.
Tell me something, how big was this album over there when it came out? Did it sort of fly under the mainstream radar, or were the singles played here, there & everywhere?
If I remember correctly Davey, as an album this didn't make a particularly large splash. A few of the singles got a good amount of air time, but I think there were just bigger and better things out for the British public to eat up/
I just wikipedia'd it out of interest, and if you really want to know the album hit the charts at #34 the week when Robbie Williams had the best selling album. The two big singles 1980 and free got to 14 and 15 respectively.
But like I said, thats off of wikipedia so take it with a pinch of salt.
Edit: Aww looking through these charts is depressing. Crazy Frog for four weeks, God we Brit's listen to some crap.This Message Edited On 04.07.09
Actually, after I typed my last comment, I began to think you were referring to American stuff like Destiny's Child, Missy Elliott, Kanye, etc... But no, it was English rubbish. And you didn't really have to throw in Crazy Frog, as you had me at Robbie Williams!
I guess 2 Top 20 singles is nothing to sneeze at. They're both genuinely good songs too. As are 'Go Gone' & 'Change Is Coming'. The first 6 tracks are really solid here.