Naughty Boy - Hotel Cabana (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
SUPER-producer Naughty Boy (aka British-born Pakistani songwriter and record producer Shahid Khan) looks to have a super massive hit on his hands with Hotel Cabana – and for once deservedly so.
Whereas a lot of mainstream dance-pop big hitters conform to tried and tested formulas (step forward Calvin Harris), Naughty Boy is at least striving to offer up something different and consistently enjoyable.
A concept album built around Naughty Boy’s fictional hotel, this features collaborations with artists including Emeli Sandé, Bastille, Tinie Tempah, Wiz Khalifa and Wretch 32, and is both a party album and, in Naughty Boy’s own words, “a number of beautifully realised musical metaphors”.
Several tracks have already been released to massive success and they offer a useful indication of the quality. Songs aspire to some euphoric highs and almost always have an instantly catchy quality about them.
Wonder, for instance, finds a sunshine piano arrangement mixing with snappy, finger-click beats and a feisty, soul-driven vocal from Sande that combine to thrilling effect. It’s a track brimming with vitality that should serve as a sports montage anthem for countless TV playbacks.
La La La also thrives from its addictive central hook (the “la la la la” of the title) and includes another smooth central vocal from Sam Smith.
While recent single Lifted is another anthem in waiting… more powerhouse, head-rush beats and engaging electronic arrangements combining with a pulsating vocal from Sande (Naughty Boy’s longest and most loyal collaborator).
But this is an album that could boast a whole rota of singles, rather like the latest offering from Harris (albeit of a higher, more diverse standard).
Think About It has a pop meets hip-hop vibe about it that finds Wiz Khalifa trading vocal blows with Ella Eyre to satisfying effect. The track drops more edge and attitude than a lot of the more party-orientated albums, but it works a treat in showcasing a different side to Naughty Boy’s make-up.
One Way, with its “why do all the bad things feel so good” lyrics, is also a gem, employing moody piano with another cracking chorus and a great vocal trade-off between Mic Righteous and Maiday, while So Strong finds Chasing Grace employing a nicely gruff set of vocals over another impassioned song about failure (complete with stirring strings).
Bastille and Naughty Boy collaborate to take notice effect on No One’s Here To Sleep, which has a nocturnal feel about its beats, Ed Sheeran drops in for the album’s ballad moment, Top Floor, while a cover version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky (featuring Tanika) may just be better than the Daft Punk orignal, complete with a more soulful vocal and a laidback, subtle beat and string arrangement.
Two bonus tracks, Never Be Your Woman and Daddy, do let the side down a little bit. But in the main, Hotel Cabana is close to being a five-star experience and is well worth checking in.
Download picks: Wonder, Lifted, Think About It, One Way, Get Lucky, La La La, No One’s Here To Sleep