Naughty Boy: Hotel Cabana

Hotel Cabana is just what you'd expect from your typical hotel stay, with a few treats thrown in.

Naughty Boy

Hotel Cabana

Label: Virgin EMI
US Release Date: 2013-07-02
UK Release Date: 2013-08-27

Hotel Cabana is the debut album from British producer Naughty Boy. As the title suggests, it's an album built on the concept of a stay in a hotel, where fame and love are the main guests. Naughty Boy confessed that he wanted the album to feel like a film, and even released a trailer for it on YouTube but unfortunately it's a film which collapses at the middle mark, specifically with the track ''Pluto''. From there on the entire concept starts to crumble. The only thing that remotely keeps it together are the short interlude tracks featuring the fantastic George the Poet.

Even though it's Naughty Boy's album, it's effectively a feature compilation. Emeli Sandé is by far the most prominently featured artist, appearing in seven out of 18 songs in the deluxe edition. There's definitely a case to say that she's overused and, with such a powerful, distinctive voice, she starts to lose her impact towards the end. It's easy to see why she's being used so much though. Her and Naughty Boy had their first musical breaks on the same track, ''Diamond Rings'', by British grime artist Chipmunk. Naughty Boy then went on to produce half of Emeli Sandé's hit album, Our Version of Events. They clearly have a strong connection and it comes across in their music. Her opening notes of the first main track ''Welcome to Cabana'' are hauntingly beautiful. With such a strong voice one can forget that she's equally as talented stripped back, also evident in the funky, grimey tune ''Never Be Your Woman'' also featuring Wiley. It does drag on a little bit with Sandé repeating the same chorus six times throughout the song.

Sandé may be dominant, but she's not the only female vocalist who stands out in Hotel Cabana. ''Think About It'' is one of the best tracks on the album, featuring Wiz Khalifa and Ella Eyre. Wiz Khalifa does spend a little too much time predictably talking about how rich he is and weed, ending the first verse with “Diamonds on my first, rollie on my wrist, my life's the shit.” Ella Eyre is phenomenal in the chorus, with a distinctive voice that wouldn't go amiss in a smokey jazz club in the '60s. You may not know her name on first glance, but you've probably heard of her. She's the vocalist in Rudimental's hit song ''Waiting All Night'', and also features on the fantastic Bastille's cover of ''No Scrubs'' by TLC.

Perhaps the most surprising feature comes from British R&B singer Gabrielle on ''Hollywood''. Like Ella, she has a beautifully distinctive voice which adds another dimension to the song. Songs about fame and its effect are done time and time again, and while ''Hollywood'' isn't too different, it still has some insightful and topical lyrics. The lyrics ''Tell me, if I dance for you, would you buy it?'' remind listeners that singers are increasingly living by the belief that sex sells more than good vocals. Good vocals however certainly aren't amiss in Hotel Cabana. Maiday, who previously worked with Jakwob, features on ''One Way'' alongside Mic Righteous, and Tanika stuns with a fantastically alternative version of Daft Punk’s hit ''Get Lucky''. Naughty Boy's use of relatively unknown British artists is something that very much enhances the album. Not only does it fill the album with new, and exciting sounds, but it also gives a platform for some really talented singers to get themselves more exposure.

Hotel Cabana isn't just an album filled with women, although the title could suggest such a thing. While a lot of the male contribution comes from rappers, vocalists are still prominent. Sam Smith heads up the lead single from the album, the irritatingly catchy ''La La La''. The song, while not bad, is by no means the best song on the album, which should hearten both those who love the track, but also those who had to change the radio station every time the opening notes started. Ed Sheeran delivers a particularly moving performance on ''Top Floor'', although it's not really anything more than a standard Ed Sheeran track. Given that the album is so R&B and hip hop dominated, it's somewhat surprising to see features from Chasing Grace and Bastille. While individually both songs are good, especially the Bastille track, they do end up sounding rather out of place in terms of the album as a whole.

It goes without saying that the production is impeccable throughout the album. It's not surprising, given Naughty Boys skills, but there can often be a tendency to overproduce which hasn't been done here. However given how talented he is, the production is fairly clichéd, and this can be extended to most of the album, which is unfortunately far too predictable. The best moments are the ones which are unexpected. Emeli Sandé singing over a funky beat that wouldn't go amiss in a warehouse rave on ''Never Be Your Woman'' is exciting, but the other songs she features on could have been lifted straight off her album. The unusual combination of Wiz Khalifa and Ella Eyre makes for probably the best song, and the cover of ''Get Lucky'' is so different, it makes the song bearable to listen to again, given how overplayed it's been.

Hotel Cabana is thus your predictable hotel stay. It gives you everything you'd expect – breakfast, lunch, dinner, a nice double bed and a power shower with complimentary shampoo and conditioner. It throws in a few extra treats, but not enough for it to set itself apart from other albums and other songs that are dominating the charts. All in all, it's a great debut album, but the unfulfilled potential for something different is ultimately what brings it down.


The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.