Album Reviews

Naughty Boy – Hotel Cabana

(Virgin) UK release date: 26 August 2013

Naughty Boy - Hotel Cabana Before the release of his super catchy Number 1 single La La La, it’s highly likely that many would have been unaware of the name Naughty Boy, aka Shahid Khan. However, the British producer has been a prolific figure in the industry over recent years. Since bursting onto the scene in 2009, he has worked with a host of artists, including Leona Lewis, Tinie Tempah, Jennifer Hudson and Cheryl Cole.

Yet his biggest success has come with Emeli Sandé, with Naughty Boy producing and co-writing most of her debut album, Our Version Of Events, which ended up being the UK’s biggest selling album of 2012. It’s been a meteoric rise for a man who started off his label Naughty Boy Recordings by applying for a grant from The Princes Trust in 2005, before winning £44,000 on Channel 4’s Deal Or No Deal and using the money to buy equipment and start his career.

Following on from that breakout single La La La comes Naughty Boy’s debut album, Hotel Cabana, which sees the producer bring together pretty much every successful British pop artist around at the moment. While there are appearances from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Wretch 32 and Professor Green, it is Sandé who dominates a great part of the record – a collaboration that continues to be particularly fruitful.

After a couple of short introductory tracks, one of which includes Tinie Tempah and Sandé, the album kicks off properly with the first official single Wonder. It’s a song that has been doing the rounds for a while – reaching Number 10 in the UK Charts – and once again features Sandé’s vocals. “If your heart turns blue, I want you to remember/ this song is for you, and you are full of wonder,” she sings, over a triumphant combination of a choir and uplifting piano keys.

It’s followed by the impressive Thinking About It, which features Ella Eyre and Wiz Khalifa – two artists that work together really well over Naughty Boy’s uncomplicated, old school production. While the song demonstrates something a bit different from the singles, it does sound a little out of place, something that was always likely to happen on an album that is made up of contributions from so many different artists.

Pluto sees Sandé pop up again for another big, industrious pop ballad, one that really prospers from Naughty Boy’s sweeping production. “I left my heart on Pluto,” she sings repeatedly, before a strong verse from Wretch 32 is tagged onto the end. Then theres’s the surprising appearance of Gabrielle on the infectious Hollywood, which ends up being one of the highlights of the album.

There are a fair few missteps, though, with Top Floor Cabana the main culprit. The song, which includes guest vocals from Sheeran, is dull as dishwater – and even that maybe going to easy on it. Elsewhere, covers of Never Be Your Woman and Get Lucky feel completely pointless and unnecessary inclusions. The former, in particular, is a throbbing remix too far and only adds to the overall sense that Hotel Cabana is a disjointed album.

However, it was always going to sound like a collection of songs and for the most part, it is a pretty good collection. The monstrous, orchestral Lifted – which sees the return of Sandé again – is another stadium-filling anthem, while Bastille’s appearance on the atmospheric No One’s Here To Sleep is suitably epic. In the end, Hotel Cabana is essentially a halfway house between an Emeli Sandé solo album and a Now That’s What I Call Music. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. But it doesn’t make for a coherent record.

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