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"It Took Me Making This Album to Finally Get It": A Guest Editorial by Estelle

"Welcome to my world."
Estelle Guest Editorial

My name is Estelle and I'm preparing to release my new reggae album, titled Lovers Rock, on September 7. The album, which is my fifth studio release, is a tell-all of my parent’s rocky, yet beautiful relationship throughout the years. Allow me to explain.

First of all, this is not new. Estelle and reggae music: not at all new. I'm grateful for that.

If you've been any type of fan or even just listened to my music, or if you've been to a show, you've heard and received an education on reggae music, soca, dancehall, and African music—possibly with some ska and rock thrown in. If you know me as a person, well, you already know, cues air horns.

For the majority of my career, I haven't stayed in one genre over the course of a 14-track album. Particularly, Lovers Rock. Eclectic is my feeling, my aesthetic. Performing many genres comes easy; I have a mini jukebox in the back of my mind, it’s simply how I grew up. My normal. It's everyone's normal, really, we just don't remember.

London in the '80s in our house was a mixture—at all times. Picture waking up in the mornings to West African zouk and Makossa legend Pépé Kallé or Detroit's own Clark Sisters, going to school and jamming out to Wham!, Duran Duran, or Yazz, and then coming home to bass lines of Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, or Freddie McGregor, or vocals of Sade, Nina Simone, or Aretha Franklin.

Welcome to my world. All day.

It's the world that colored every single album I’ve released in my life. Every single bass line and drum pattern on any song you've heard from me has come from a drum pattern or a bass line, a melody or a guitar riff, that was "taught" to me by Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, the I Threes, Beres Hammond, Burning Spear, Louisa Mark and, as I got older, Studio One, Steely & Clevie, or producers like Dave and Tony Kelly, to name a few.

I'm grateful for that.

What is also new is that for the first time in my career, I've written and sung from a place that is new but also old to me. I get to sing through the story of my parents and put it to this soundscape that is the truest definition of me. Their love story is singular and common; you love who you love. No matter how you meet, you pray that you get to have them in your life for a long time, however that happens.

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I was born nine months after they met, followed by two more sisters within three years. Before they "broke up," or were kind of split up, they found each other 20 years after originally meeting, and got married another 10 after that. To me, that is serendipity.

What making this album did was force me to check my own actions as far as my love and life are concerned. My albums are as personal as I say: finding and breaking up with the “American Boy,” handling the crazy with strength via “Thank You,” then forging through life to become a “Conqueror.” To do it all again in short repetition for the sake of art or something to say or just me doing what I’d seen my family do, or just living life the best way I knew?

Whatever it was, I hated it. It's no one's fault, I just hated it. I always think hating my life is clear disrespect to all of the effort and tears and sacrifice I’ve put into following my dreams and a sure path to losing my dreams. I decided it’s time for a change. It was becoming apparent that the past, no matter how dreamy or comfy it looked and felt, would eventually lull me into a rotation that would destroy everything I’d built. That, I was so proud of.

The proverbial "safety blanket" is so warm that sometimes I didn't even know I was asleep at the wheel of my vivid-ass life, letting the past dictate my future. Imagine that! I felt a pinch of freedom to let it all go, starting the day after their wedding when she said to me, "I'm good, go and live your life..." I said: "Okay, Ma," and thought: But I already am!

I've moved to a whole new country, I am living my dream, but it wasn't until towards the end of this record that I realized what she'd meant. She kept saying the same thing to me in no certain terms over the next few years and through breakups and near-misses of boyfriends and work-related upheavals.

Clearly, this blanket wasn't burning easily. It took me making this album to finally get it. Somewhere along the course of our relationship, I'd taken on the mantle of a sister, protector, defender, maker-righter, fighter. Nowadays, I feel like I can just be a proud daughter.

Although it might seem late for some, it’s perfect timing for me. At "today years old," I choose my love on my terms and sometimes ask my mum's viewpoint—I mean, she has tenure and a wide perspective. I can call my dad and ask him for advice (again, with a wide-angle lens and the benefit of "newness and no judgment”).

Really, I’m just happy that while I’m young and have breath, I am able to tribute them with this art and this music that they gave to my siblings and myself as babies. I'm grateful for Lovers Rock.

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