Backbeat: Why Estelle Was More Excited To Work With Janelle Monae Than Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Rick Ross, Wyclef & Chris Brown
Backbeat: Why Estelle Was More Excited To Work With Janelle Monae Than Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Rick Ross, Wyclef & Chris Brown

On January 25, Estelle previewed her new album "All Of Me" before an intimate crowd at Home on Houston Street in New York. It's been three years since the London native's single "American Boy" featuring Kanye West was released. Since then, she has replaced her upbeat, bouncy attitude in the studio with a fearless, more personal sound.

"The record is a more intimate one and it's one of the most personal experiences in my life," Estelle told Billboard.biz. "I wasn't trying to go for a certain sound or a certain style. I was like, 'whatever feels right today is what I'm going to do.'"

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John Legend poses with Estelle at the latter's album listening party for "All Of Me" (Photo: Kellyann Petry)

Grammy winner John Legend sat near the singer as she provided interstitial commentary between tracks and a crowd of about fifty bobbed their heads to the music and ate sliders and French fries. Legend co-wrote the song "Cold Crush" on "All Of Me." "It's about a lady not being afraid to say something [to her crush]," he explained. The women in the audience swooned audibly.

Other artists on the new album include Ne-Yo, Rick Ross, Trey Songz, Wyclef Jean, Akon and Chris Brown. When Billboard.biz asked Estelle whose contribution she was most excited about, she answered swiftly: Janelle Monae. "I've been wanting to work with her since the day I met her." Monae sings on "Do My Thing," a dance tune with a 1950s two-step swing produced by Ahmir "?uestlove" Thompson.

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Estelle provides interstitial commentary while previewing the tracks on her upcoming "All Of Me" album while John Legend looks on. (Photo: Kellyann Petry)

Estelle pointed it out as one of two songs on the album about confident, independent women. The other is "Speak Ya Mind," a track that reboots Adina Howard's 1995 R&B single "Freak Like Me" and turns it into an anthem for the empowered 21st century female. "People expect women to do what everybody says. That's some bullshit," she said with a grin.

The listening party ended with an audience Q&A. No afterparty for this diva. "Tonight I'm going back to L.A. to rehearse. A few more days of rehearsal and then tour time." Atlantic Records will release "All Of Me" on Feb. 28. Estelle begins her 2012 North American tour in Cleveland, Ohio on February 2.

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