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Naughty Boy “Hotel Cabana” – Album Review

Virgin (2013)

Having ploughed every penny of the £45,000 he won on the UK version of Deal Or No Deal back in 2005 into his recording studio, London producer Shahid Khan, aka Naughty Boy, appears to have spent his money wisely, judging by his star-studded debut album, Hotel Cabana.

The 28-year-old has already scored a number one in his homeland with “La La La,” a soulful two-step garage throwback accompanied by a charming Wizard Of Oz-inspired video. But featuring the cream of the British urban scene, these fourteen tracks further prove that there’s more to his talents than opening boxes at random.

There’s getting the best out of Emeli Sandé, for one. The ubiquitous singer hopelessly failed to live up to her early potential with her own album, but cropping up on four separate occasions, she’s in sparkling form here, whether it’s on the triumphant gospel pop of “Wonder,” the Amy Winehouse-esque retro soul of “Welcome To Cabana” or the euphoric current single “Lifted.”

The latter’s similarity to Massive Attack’s seminal “Unfinished Sympathy” is a recurring theme throughout Hotel Cabana as Naughty Boy employs a similar fusion of epic strings, Middle Eastern chants and 90s breakbeat on the likes of “Pluto,” “So Strong” and the Gabrielle-fronted “Hollywood.”

But although Hotel Cabana doesn’t always live up to its self-imposed five-star rating, Naughty Boy is far from a one-trick-pony. “Think About It” sees Wiz Khalifa and Rudimental vocalist Ella Eyre join forces for an effortlessly cool slice of head-nodding hip-hop. Elsewhere, Maiday follows up her star turn on Jakwob’s “Fade” with an equally haunting appearance amongst the wintry folk chants, pounding piano chords and military rhythms of Mic Righteous collaboration “One Way.”

The inclusions of “New Boring” troubadours Ed Sheeran (“Top Floor”) and Bastille’s Dan Smith (“No One’s Here To Sleep”) towards the end inevitably flatten the mood. But on the whole, Hotel Cabana is a vibrant and enjoyably glossy affair which manages to pull off its “you can visit, but you can never leave” concept with aplomb.


4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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Posted in: Album Reviews, Electronic Music


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