The album is almost split into two distinct styles: one half funky, UK R&B hip-hop whereas the other more downbeat and soulful. Opening track "1980" sums up the early part--the backing a wall of sound and the catchy vocals reminiscing about growing up. "Dance Bitch" is slightly more US sounding where one can hear echoes of Missy Elliott; "Go Gone" is fun and poppy, sounding like an update on the classic Northern Soul sound; and "Free" is a bouncy funk number and also second single.
For the ballad "I Wanna Love You", Estelle slips more into singing mode and her confidence grows with each subsequent song. "Crazy" shows off the range and dexterity of her voice, it may not be that of a world-class soul diva but it's strong and the phrasing is fantastic.
One big highlight is, "I'm Gonna Win"--dramatic, rousing and an uplifting moment on a really enjoyable album. On The 18th Day there is very little filler and whilst the heavy ballad section can be a little bit too much, it never falls into bland mediocrity.--David Trueman
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. --Chris Carter
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