Album review: Esmée Denters - Outta here

Album review: Esmée Denters - Outta here
From YouTube to Hollywood. Gotta admire the upgrade. But take away Esmée's YouTube phenomenon and stick her in a studio with today's hottest producers being overseen by Justin Timberlake, and what do you get?

From the album opens with "Admit it" you can smell Justin Timberlake. You best enjoy that smell, because you'll waft it on every track. At least half the album sounds like a Justin Timberlake track. A good look for Justin. Because it re-affirms that he has his own distinguishable sound. But on Esmée's album it comes at a cost of her being saturated in her mentors sound.

One thing you'll notice as you play the album through is how bland some of the songs are. "Outta here" was a nice enough song. Many hated it, I liked it. But it wasn't this great, explosive single that would've had piqued your interested if you heard it on the radio. Outta here isn't a complete blandfest though and you do get some songs that shine.

"Love dealer" sticks out because it's the only flat out funky pop record on the whole album where Esmée adopts a sass you'd expect from a girl her age who copped a record deal. The lyrics are pretty quirky: liking to offering love to being a drug dealer. It's not as bad as it sounds. But it definitely made me wish this song had been given to Whitney Houston. Just because. "Love dealer" has a bounce that is seriously infectious, and you'd never think for second upon hearing it that Stargate were behind it. It sounds NOTHING like what you'd usually expect from them. "Love dealer" does have a couple of problems though. Justin Timberlake makes unnecessary appearances in between lines that just come off as over-cheesed. And the bridge section is a mess. It sounds incomplete and off sets the song's bounce. It'd make a hot single and it would go right in a club though. "Victim" is another contender for a single. Hot lyrics, hot beat and hot delivery from Esmée. Ryan Tedder ones again does the damn thing, and the official Timbo biter Rob Knox ensures the drums knock hard. "Casanova" has Danja on production duties, and as always he comes with a hot beat. This song is the albums dark sexy slow jam, spoilt by a (once again) un-necessary appearance from Justin Timberlake. Him making an appearance at all and the cheesy lyrics he spouts would've been enough to ruin the song had Danja not come so correct with the beat. But between Danja's magic and Esmée's vocal work, the song stays hot. "Bigger than the world" also features on the album. We all knew back when the Justin demo leaked that this had to be for Esmée's album. And I'm glad it made it onto the tracklist, because I loved the song back then. Thankfully it's as hot now as it was when the demo first touched down. Everything is pretty much the same, aside from a change in key, tighter vocal production, an additional bridge and of course: a different vocalist. The song is nothing short of brilliant. This should definitely do rounds as a third single. It has a great sound to it and Justin was on his A-game with the songwriting. The lyrics are beautiful. I'd go as far as to say it's one of Justin Timberlake's best penned song and productions by far.

There is too much focus on trying to make the songs deep, as opposed to just making good pop records. To the point sometimes where the songs are a mix of really catchy verses and then crap choruses and visa-vera. Esmée can write a song. This is certain. But I think she was probably given too much free reign for her first album. She definitely should've been teamed with a collective of songwriters on each song - to help construct the song better.

The production on the album is a mixed bag. Nothing really sticks out because everything bleeds into one sound and so many of the songs sound like recycled remnants of other songs. Justin Timberlake once again goes and recycles "What goes around, comes around", "Rehab" and "Devil wouldn't recognize you" for "Gravity". And every Y's production on the album sounds like a Timbaland bite. "Bigger than the world" is ridiculous. It sounds like straight Timbo. If you didn't know otherwise you'd swear up and down it as him that did the beat.

Esmée's vocals are the only consistent element to this album. She has a really nice voice, which is kept in check. So often when you get young ladies with good voices, they seem to want to throw vocal acrobatics all over the place. But Esmée holds it down. The vocal production on Outta here is damn solid. No doubt as a result of Justin, who despite being a douche, is a talented vocal producer. After all, he was in a boy band - so he should know a thing or two about harmonies and layering. Esmée works her arrangements like a pro. Coming off a little Beyoncé-like on some of the songs.

The problem with Outta here is that Justin Timberlake comes through more than Esmée does. Between Justin, a bevvy of producers which includes Polow Da Don, Danja and Ryan Teddar - Esmée gets lost to the point where she's just a pretty voice on well-enough produced songs. Her personality never comes through and there just doesn't feel like there's anything to the girl. It's almost as though Outta here strips Esmée of any form of persona or originality. When she was just that girl singing songs on YouTube, she had something about her. She had an angle. You take that away and throw her in the studio to sing on tried and tested songs, and she's just a regular chick with nothing all that unique about her. It's ironic Esmée was more original and alluring singing other people's songs than she is singing her own.

Outta here is just an okay album. It's a bit too boring to warrant a purchase and take any real interest in. I cannot see Esmée going the distance unless she switches gears completely for her sophomore album. Justin has a talented girl on his hands, but he needs to let her step out on her own a little, and let other producers help her find her sound. Because his creativity engulfs Esmée to the point where her persona is lost and the whole album sounds like Justin living his fantasies of being a female artist vicariously through Esmee's music.

Album highlights:
■ Victim
■ Outta here
■ Love dealer J's fave
■ Casanova
■ Getting over you
■ Bigger than the world


  1. Fun fact: I played "The First Thing" on the radio as my farewell song at the end of my senior year at school and almost cried.

    I would have given the album a bit more than 5... after all, Justin only appears on two or three songs. Pretty sure I would have recommended all the same songs, though. "Admit It" stuck out to me, because the chorus is just straight fire. I like the way all the instruments fall out and then hit you like a great wave. And, the first single "Outta Here" just shocked the bajeez outta me. Polow came from nowhere with that track. None of his tracks sound the same nowadays! He's come a long way since Fergie's "Glamorous". It's SO strange; I think he's being helped (and, I'm not talking about Danja doing the drums, like in "London Bridge". I mean, whole melodies and instrumentations!). And, "Casanova" was one of those tracks I went nuts over. You know, me being a fiend for a Danja track and all.

    Aw, hell, this is one of those CDs that comes along once in a while where I'd recommend a full listen. But, that must be because I've been submerged in the Timberlake sound since "Cry Me a River". As a matter of fact, I'd say that this is like the Justin Timberlake album that would have followed "FutureSex/LoveSounds" if Timberlake had whored himself out (more so than he already did). This album leaves little room for improvement. 10/10.

    The song I would have liked to have in CDQ on the album was the live track "Follow My Lead" ft Justin Timberlake. That song has something about it, and I'm disappointed that there's no evidence pointing toward it having been recorded in studio. The synths and the chorus on that track are blazing.

  2. Half of this album sounding so much like a Justin album is what hurts it. Because Esmée may as well have not bothered being put on the songs at all. Justin comes through more than she does. The songs themselves aren't crap, but they are boring. The only tracks I play non-stop are "Casanova" (Danja = instant win!), "Victim" (The melody and those drums!) and "Bigger than the world" which is just flat out amazing. I had love for "Love dealer", but the intro and the bridge kill the vibe too much. Especially when I be in the car try'na get my non-interrupted bounce on. I'm still shocked Stargate produced the track though.

    For a girl who got big off of singing other people's songs to then put out an album full of straight Justin songs - it strange to me. When are we going to get a feel for Esmee herself!?

    As for Polow, it wouldn't surprise me if somebody else was behind the scenes, not getting credited for shit. When I heard Ciara's "Never ever", I thought that shit sounded too melodic for it to be just Polow. *lol* Then when I heard "Outta here" I was also shocked. The drums are straight Polow, but the chords and melodies and shit!? N***a has an un-credited somebody up in that studio with him. He has to. I've always liked Polow's productions though. (Garageband beat jacking aside). The first track of his I went crazy for was Ciara's "Promise". That beat was insane. And then he just went crazy with "Bang it up". Those tracks will never get old for me.

  3. Touché... I never watched any of Esmée's YouTube videos before she hit big, so I would hardly know how well she sang 'em. I love the album, but I guess for an artist who was two years in the making, something better could have come out of the recording sessions. I was expecting a big album, like Elliott Yamin, with like 7 bonus tracks and what not. I suppose they weren't that hard at work, since Justin pens songs in his head. I hate that an artist can't sit down and write thoughtful lyrics, as if it's cool to go off the top of the dome.

    As for feeling Esmée, she has to find people she's comfortable with within the music industry, and not just allow herself to ride the famous producer wave. Either that or she needs to whip out her musical skills and do the damn thing herself. Like her labelmate Matt Morris. I'm still waiting to hear Matt Morris' album, dammit. After that song he wrote for Reba, I've been waiting in vain. Which is a shame, cuz that song was the best country song I'd heard since my days in the American South in the '90s.


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