Naughty Boy is the stage name for Watford born producer Shahid Khan.
Having produced two top ten hits for British rappers Chipmunk and Wiley, Naughty Boy turned his attentions to Emele Sandi who he collaborated with on her multi million selling album “Our Version of Events” where Naughty Boy had a hand in nearly every song on the album.
Naughty Boy’s debut album saw Sande return the favour on a 3 of the 11 full tracks. The first single from the album was “Wonder” which Sande sings over an initial piano rift which turns into a big African drum beat and a catchy as hell chorus.
It would be six months later until the next single was released which was the number one hit “La La La” featuring an up and coming Sam Smith on vocals. This song is very similar to the Garage songs in the late 90’s early 2000’s and Smith’s voice complements the song well. The lyrics are quite poignant also as this is clearly a song about someone either being bullied or having to deal with abuse from an individual.
“I’m covering my ears like a kid, when your words mean nothing I go La La La”.
So we have “Wonder” and “La La La”. Both very good songs and both different to a lot which was in the charts at the time. The anticipation surrounding the release of the debut from Naughty Boy was from my perspective almost palatable.
But the album gave me less “La La La” and more disappointment. The collaboration list was impressive but ultimately like any album its about the quality of the music and this album was a mess of an compilation.
A short intro from British spoken word artist George the Poet welcomes you to Hotel Cabana as the album attempts to set the scene where the songs are meant to be set.
Track 3 “Think about it” features Wiz Khalifa (who would go on to have a number one song in 2015 with the odious and vomit inducing ‘See You Again'” and British vocalist Ella Eyre who produces a really good vocal in this song. The rap from Khalifa is average but then that shouldn’t be a surprise from such an ordinary rapper. This track is one of the albums better moments but this is due to a great hook in the chorus.
When I received this album I looked toward track 5 as the moment of excitement as it featured UK singer Gabrielle who had a plethora of hits in the 90s and early 00’s with songs such as “Dreams” “Rise” and “Sunshine”.
If Naughty Boy could give Sande and Smith such great tracks surely we could get something amazing out of a seasoned pro like Gabrielle. But it is just a generic middle of the road mid tempo ballad which sees Gabrielle sounding like Anastasia with a cold. Gabrielle sadly (or thankfully) had no part to play in the writing of this song which for me saw it doomed from the start.
Track 8 “One Way” is a song about temptation and facing your fears. It features rapper Mic Righteous (which is fitting) and vocalist Maiday. It’s a tired theme which is suited to the likes of nonsense rappers like Professor Green.
Sande appears again on the song “Pluto” which I like and have seen Sande do this live in her setlists. The songs lyrics are a bit silly as the title “Pluto” seems to have been chosen and the song subsequently written around it as it name checks nearly every planet in the solar system.
“My heart’s been trapped for many times by Venus and Neptune
Hurt me bad but not as bad Jupiter, go figure”
The song features a rap from British artist Wretch 32 whose languid style often makes him seem intelligent yet he rarely says anything of note. His line here does nothing to impress:
“I ain’t gonna fall for that too from Your-anus”.
The next song features unknown (to me) group Chasing Grace in the song “So Strong” which starts off very similar to “Counting Stars” by One Republic. The Massive Attack sounding beats do little to help the song after the intro and this draws a massive yawn. In fact this song is so far away from what you thought was going to be on this album its almost fraud.
Bastille are up next on track 11. The lead singer Daniel Smith for me is the reason Bastille have done so well with his interesting and unique voice which has masked the bog standard songs Bastille have released. This sounds like “Laura Palmer” from the Bastille album “All this Bad Blood”. It sounds like an off cut from that album and a discarded piece that was thrown on here as filler.
Just as you want to turn the album off track 12 gives us “Lifted”. Sande is back again in upbeat mode in the same vain as “Wonder” and delivers a brilliant performance. She is a very talent vocal and this postive song is superb.
The next track lasts for 2:09 and features the biggest male artist in the UK currently Ed Sheeran. The track “Top Floor” sees Sheeran doing his thing strumming away on his guitar with a piano quietly backing the song. I’d love to have been in the studio when this song was recorded just to see what Naughty Boy actually did.
George The Poet comes back for the epilogue. His little skits are actually quite good and attempt to give the album this atmospheric concept but sadly there are too many holes in the middle to make this stick.
Overall Hotel Cabana has one or two fine moments but the attempt to bring together different styles of music such as Hip Hop, Soul and Indie do not work for me as a collective piece.
Naughty Boy has recently brought out a track featuring Beyonce and “Runnin” is riding high in the charts. What Khan needs to do is ensure that the big names on his next album are not simply the selling point because on this evidence unlike someone such as Disclosure he simply does not have the song writing or production to carry and entire album.
Maybe Naughty Boy should simply stick to producing singles for artists but he clearly wants to have his name as the front runner. He can do some great things, but “Hotel Cabana” has certainly extingusihed any excitement when seeing Naughty Boy has a new song out.