This is a promising and slickly-produced debut which possesses enough easy charisma to...
Chris Carter 2004-10-18
Upon first hearing her autobiographical debut single "1980", you'd be forgiven for dismissing Estelle as another Chav chancer yammering about her newly-bling life. However, on closer inspection, the song's self-deprecating lyrics suggest a more humble approach than the grandstanding of many of her peers, and it's precisely this down-to-earth, every woman charm which characterises much of her debut LP.
Estelle's key reference points are clearly evident throughout The 18th Day - equal parts Salt 'n' Pepa and Missy Elliott (whose influence is most notable in the tart lyrics and high sass of "Dance Bitch"), the album is topped off with a significant nod to Destiny's Child (the twangy hookline and sexy, shadowy chorus of "Don't Talk" are a thinly-veiled imitation of "Bootylicious").
Musically, however, there is also a significant amount of individual ambition on display, as showcased most impressively in the multilayered urban bustle of "Change Is Coming". Indeed, Estelle's willingness to experiment with different styles is a major plus-point: a pounding modern spin on 60s girl-groups makes "Go Gone" a notable standout, whereas latest single "Free" is an obvious choice for chart success with its funky, Jackson 5-esque disco-bounce.
It's a shame then that after such an inventive start the album begins to flag midway, with a series of mid-tempo ballads plodding by in unremarkable succession. Guest appearances from Baby Blue and Royston occasionally enliven the proceedings, but after the initial sparkle it often seems like Estelle is the kind of friend whose parties you'd readily attend provided she doesn't start talking about her love-life.
Thankfully, there are a couple more blinders scattered along the way in the form of the catchy schoolyard hip-hop of "On And On" and the soaring, inspirational "Gonna Win", both of which suggest that if Estelle can match her infectious energy and engaging personality to a higher percentage of winning tunes, she will rightfully follow in the footsteps of the artists she so clearly admires. As it stands, this is a promising and slickly-produced debut which -while far from groundbreaking - possesses enough easy charisma to mark her out from the rest of the pack.