Album of the week: Naughty Boy, Hotel Caban (Virgin EMI)
Naughty but nice driving beats are worth checking out
It's the kind of heartwarming showbiz story that not even Depression-era Hollywood scriptwriters would dare come up with. Pakistani cab-driver's son from Watford, making beats in his dad's garden shed, sets up his own studio with £44,000 he wins on Deal Or No Deal, meets ice-cream-coiffed Scottish singer-songwriter, and together they conquer the world with her first album. For Shahid "Naughty Boy" Khan, Slumdog Millionaire isn't fiction, it's just the first chapter of his autobiography.
Khan's own debut album draws heavily on his association with Emeli Sandé, both as singer and co-writer, with old singles such as "Daddy", "Wonder" and Wiley's "Never Be Your Woman" (the pair's breakthrough hit) alongside new material including the current chart-topper "Lifted", a gospel-tinged anthem driven by another of Naughty Boy's trademark Funky Drummer variants, and quirkily looped strings and backing vocals behind Sandé's typically impassioned lead. Khan's signature style is best exemplified, however, by the austere grandiosity of "Pluto", where the blend of vaunting synthesised strings and shuffling groove carries a two-way argument between Sandé and Wretch 32, one of the more successful pairings on an album whose underlying theme – cloaked in a shaky hotel metaphor –involves debates about the tenuous nature of virtue and fidelity.
Sandé's not the only high-profile guest involved; Gabrielle, Wiz Khalifa and Tinie Tempah also put in appearances, along with Bastille's Dan Smith on "No One's Here to Sleep", an unusually congruent blend of indie and dance-pop thanks to Khan's dramatic inclinations and Smith's soulful engagement – his counterpoint second vocal line is especially effective.
The inclusion of Naughty Boy's own take on Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" just seems like unnecessary hubris, as if Khan's unsatisfied with having two of the year's biggest hits, and is trying to co-opt theirs, showing how he would have done it. But then, who knows if his way, in the long run, won't be the right way?
Download: Lifted; No One's Here to Sleep; One Way; Pluto
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