Where do I even begin when writing about Ester Dean? Do I start with her super strong melodic hook (which, I love), her rise from rapper/singer to superstar Billboard Hot 100 topping songwriter or her gracious/positive spirit? Anyone who knows me, will know that I always root for people on the rise and Ms Dean is no exception. She’s amazing at what she does and that, coupled with her lovely personality (as seen on Twitter) mean that I am in full support of her musical take over. I am a self-confessed stan, lol.
For those not in the know, she has written hits such as Rihanna’s Rude Boy, What’s My Name & S&M, Katy Perry’s Firework (co-write) and Pussycat Dolls’ Jai Ho (from the amazing Slumdog Millionaire OST). Being a part of such major hits is such an important and admirable achievement for a songwriter in the popular/urban realm of music.
As an aspiring songwriter, I have this never-ending habit of checking who the songwriters are for the songs I love the most. This is how I first came across Ester Dean’s work. I remember hearing Rude Boy on my first listen on Rihanna’s “Rated R” LP and I was immediately enthralled. The melodic top line was fierce/aggressive/authentic and truly captivating. I had never heard a melody quite like that. I googled the songwriter and up popped her name. That, right then, was the moment I fell in love with Ester Dean. I then realised that she had written so many songs that I had previously loved upon first listen. I can not wait to hear what she has been working on, my ear will be glued to the music blogs.
Here are my 3 favourite elements of Ester’s writing skills and why I like them:
1. Melody: Keri Hilson – Toy Soldier & Rihanna – Fading
Why? Ester’s melodies feel so good to my soul, I literally feel nourished when I hear them. They are sweet, soulful and they linger in your mind forever.
For example in Keri Hilson’s Toy Soldier, the first line “you told me that our love would keep marching on, hoorah”…the “hoorah” instantly hooks you and I think it’s got to do with the upward movement on the notes…she carries you to the next line in way that feels good. The next key melodic point is “why would I doubt you, when you said you loved me”, the “me” has a prolonged and undulating melody that is almost hypnotizing. You immediately want to hear it again, so in that way, Ms Dean already has you roped into listening to the next verse and not pressing the skip button so soon. Keeping you hooked for the whole song is the key to a great songwriter. This song never lets up in that regard. I love it. I would say that it’s the best cut on Keri Hilson’s “No Boys Allowed” LP.
Notable mention: Kelly Rowland – Rose Coloured Glasses
Other than compulsive music blog readers like myself, most people don’t know this song. This song is magical and show’s Ester’s brilliance. Produced by Dr Luke, the song (wrapped up in a story about a failing relationship) is a fierce anthem about having peace in knowing that your life decisions were made on your own terms instead of being based on other people’s opinions. I was raised on Destiny’s Child, so I like almost anything the DC ladies do and this is no exception. Ms Rowland’s underrated vocal instrument handles the well-written melody & lyrics with ease. This is a winner and should be listened to, do yourself a favour.
2. Lyrical Style & Delivery – Mary J Blige – The One & Rihanna – Rude Boy
Why? Attitude! Attitude! Attitude! Ester Dean is from Oklahoma/Nebraska/Atlanta so I know she’s got soul. This comes through in these songs. She’s not afraid of fierce lyrics that celebrate female empowerment, sexual liberation and straight up fun.
Rude Boy was such a hit that anybody should be able to understand why it’s so fantastic. It is beyond captivating and naughty (in a good way). So instead, let’s rather focus on Mary J Blige’s The One. My favourite lyrics from the song are as follows;
“Let me break it down if you don’t get it, quality, I’m custom fitted…
..I ain’t saying that I’m the best, but I’m the best, hey baby you need that”.
Combine Ester’s sick pen game and Mary J Blige’s glam-hood swagger and you have magic. It’s so ferocious and I love every second of it. Every second. Go Ester Dean!
Notable mention: Paradiso Girls – Patron Tequila
Lyrically, this song is about having a good time and “leaving” yourself and immersing yourself in the fun of the night. Straight up fun! I don’t drink that much anymore but nothing beats Patron shots and a good time. “I’m on Patron, Tequila, I’m drunk on margaritas, that Patron tequila, me and my mamacita” – some would say it’s a simple lyric but add it to the thumping beat and you have nightclub gold. This is so much fun in the club.
3. Emotion: Monica – Here I Am
Why? “If you need to love somebody, hey baby, let me be that body, here I am”. Whoooooo! This is such a sexy song and Monica is emoting like her life depends on it, I love that! It’s about wanting someone in that way and telling them that you’re there – ready, willing and bloody well able.
There is a mixture of longing, lust and a hint of finding someone that you think is your true love so you need them to give you the strength to leave your current relationship. That’s a whole lot of feelings to work with and only a talented writer, such as Ms Dean, would be able to weave all of those thoughts and feelings into one song. I’ve noticed that Ester likes to sing her melodies in a hard/strong tone (listen to the Rude Boy demo or Lose Control demo) – I wish I could sing like that and I would love to hear the demo for this song.
This was and still is my favourite song from Monica’s “Still Standing” LP. I loved it before I knew Ester wrote it so finding her name on the credits only made me love it even more.
Notable mention: Mary J Blige – Stronger
The way Mary sings the line “I will survive as long as it’s you by my side”, I just want to die! So powerful – that’s some deep ass love. Lord knows I love this song so much! Ester put soul and sweat into this song, from the melody, lyrics and emotion. Yaaaas!