Album: Estelle, Shine (Homeschool/Atlantic)

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The Independent Culture

Cee-Lo adds his own touch of class to Estelle's "Pretty Please", but the most dominant figure behind this follow-up to The 18th Day is pianist/producer John Legend, who made the London singer the first signing to his Homeschool label.

Legend has rifled his contacts book for a stellar array of collaborators, including, Mark Ronson, Wyclef, Swizz Beats and, most notably, Kanye West, unconvincingly claiming he dresses "like a London bloke" on the hit "American Boy". It speaks volumes for Estelle's abilities that it's her character, not theirs, which drives Shine. For "Magnificent", Ronson constructs a two-step ska-pop groove in the style of his work for Lily Allen, while employs sequenced stabs of samples from Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You" as the basis for "Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)", in which Estelle tells a faithless partner she's disinclined to "carry your embryo". The mild assertiveness of her tone, here and when claiming in "More Than Friends" that "I am not that 'ho, I am so much more", is much more appealing than the bitchiness that's become the lingua franca for most American divas.

Pick of the album: 'Pretty Please', 'Wait a Minute (Just a Touch)', 'Back In Love'

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