Review of Hotel Cabana Album by Naughty Boy

Shahid Khan, aka Naughty Boy, may not have been the most well-known artist, but his production credits include work by Tinie Tempah, Leona Lewis and, perhaps most prominently, Emeli Sande's mega-selling 'Our Version Of Events'.  Naughty Boy's debut sees her return the favour of collaboration, and includes guest spots from many other contemporaries.

Naughty Boy Hotel Cabana Album

The first of three pieces by George The Poet introduce a mysterious tone that is carried into 'Welcome To Cabana', on which vocals are provided by the aforementioned Tempah and Sande.  The juxtaposition of their styles works well on a track that is concise, clocking in at less than two minutes, but it is on the following 'Wonder' that Sande really takes the spotlight.  Energetic and infectious, it has hooks aplenty and a genuine carnival vibe that overshadows her later work on 'Lifted', a decent club track in its own right.  One of the best examples of Naughty Boy's ability to craft a fine tune is 'Hollywood', on which one of the most radio-friendly voices of the last two decades, Gabrielle, turns in a performance full of attitude that matches the stomp of the track.

By far the standout moment of the record is the Sam Smith collaboration 'La La La'.  A masterful slice of garage-pop, it has undeniable hooks that will stay in your head for days and border on annoyance - but crucially remain enjoyable.  It's no surprise it has been nominated for Best Single at the 2014 Brit Awards and there can be no complaints if it lands the prize.  Unfortunately for this album, it marks a turning point, not that the soul power balladry of 'So Strong' is a mistake for being a marked change in style, just that it sounds regrettably like The Fray.  Bastille's turn on 'No One's Here To Sleep' also fails to impress with its contrived desperation, whilst 'Top Floor (Cabana) is a typical Ed Sheeran turn, but not what is required here.  A quartet of bonus tracks close the album, of which a string-laden cover of Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' is the song of note.  The organic approach works well and Tanika's vocals do justice to one of last year's biggest hits, resulting in an appropriate high toward the end of a record that starts brilliantly, but loses its way.


Alex Lai

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