“American Boy” by Estelle (ft. Kanye West)
There has been different explanations concerning the the lyrical origin of this song. One is that the “American boy” is actually a combination of different dudes from the United States whom Estelle, a British singer, had befriended. Another is that it is based on a specific American whom the songstress had dated. But either way, the titular character is definitely someone she seems to be in love with.
And there are two aspects of his being in particular which have piqued her interest. One is his style if you will, as in the “fancy clothes” and ‘fresh sneakers’ that he wears. And whereas she is not too impressed with his affinity for “baggy jeans”, she is physically attracted to him enough to overlook that unique sense of fashion.
The second aspect she appreciates is the fact that he is actually familiar with the United States. Therefore she is very much looking forward to him taking her on a tour of the country. And some of the famous places she namedrops as her preferred tourist destinations include New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
Meanwhile Kanye’s sections aren’t really based on Estelle’s lyrics. Or if he is taking on the role of the American boy, he isn’t doing so in a romantic sense. Rather he raps about he and Estelle blowing up, as artists, in the UK as well as his interactions with the British media and public.
But either way this song definitely struck a chord with the mainstream audience, as it went on to become an international success. And arguably the reason for such is that it speaks to a common fantasy, one based on a foreign woman hooking with a dude from America, a very-rich and interesting country. Indeed if one were to study its chart history, “American boy” fared better in many other countries than it did in America itself.
The music video to this track, which had Syndrome as its director, was a star-studded affair. In addition to Kanye, it featured Estelle’s mentor, John Legend, in addition to the likes of T.I., LL Cool J and Danger Mouse. The clip received a nomination for Best UK Video at the MTV Video Music Awards of 2008.
Facts about “American Boy”
This track was produced by Will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas’ fame. In fact the instrumental for “American Boy” was derived from one of his own solo tunes, 2018’s “Impatient”.
He is also one of the co-writes of the song along with Keith Harris, Josh Lopez, Caleb Speir, John Legend, Kanye West and Estelle.
Atlantic Records released “American Boy” on 31 March 2008 as part of Estelle’s sophomore album “Shine”, with the tune also serving as the second single from that project.
“American Boy” took home a Grammy Award in the category of Best Rap/Sung Collaboration in 2009, in addition to being nominated for Song of the Year.
It also earned Estelle a 2008 MOBO Award in the category of Best Song.
The international success of “American Boy” has made this track Estelle’s signature song. For instance it topped both the UK Singles Chart (marking Estelle’s first time doing so) and UK R&B Chart in addition to the European Hot 100 and music charts in Belgium, Scotland and Slovakia.
In terms of America itself it appeared on four Billboard charts, including peaking at number 9 on the Hot 100. And generally speaking it charted in 25 countries.
“American Boy” has gone multi-Platinum in both the United States and Estelle’s homeland