How did I miss this euphonious moment of a masterpiece? Gloria Estefan will forever go down in my books as such a wonderful depiction of Cuban and Caribbean artistry and philanthropy; however, let’s get down to business and talk about her 2011 opus Miss Little Havana.
MLH is quite the album. Executive-produced by Pharrell after baiting Gloria for years after her retirement from music in 2007, the title track and “I Can’t Believe” won Gloria over and the task of creating an exuberant Latin-flavored party on a disc commenced.
I believe that the initial mistake was the first single, Wepa. Firstly, as a Cuban/Lebanese-American, Wepa is a word I have never heard, let alone want to hear. Wepa is also just too much sound coming at you for 4 minutes. There isn’t a break in the horns, the chorus isn’t well structured; I’m assuming it’s what being on cocaine is like on a bad day.
The rest of the album though is quite sexy. Pharrell is a wonderfully talented producer. Songs like Heat, Say Ay, So Good are just sweaty-sexy moments on the dancefloor that don’t make Gloria sound out of place. Her voice has always been velvety and continues to sound so. Pharrell does manage to sneak in some groovy tunes (Right Away, Make Me Say Yes) that sound like precursors to the Daft Punk hit, Get Lucky.
MLH is such a vibrant and exuberant set that doesn’t sound too young for Gloria. The packaging is just exquisitely vivacious and I truly love the interwoven bilingual moments. I think the only downfall to the project is something that Allmusic’s review noted as well; at times the Caribbean flare of the horns, bongos and other instruments feel too stilted and controlled, when they truly excel when they’re able to live outside constraints of structure. Frankly, I just wonder how much of the instrumentation was computerized; however, the production is still well-crafted.
The album was released in September of 2011 and was sold exclusively through Target stores. MLH produced one real single, Hotel Nacional. Hotel Nacional is such a hysterical moment in the album where the Latin flare is left behind for something that sounds like We No Speak Americano. The lyrics alone are just hysterical, for example:
“Drama’s on like Susan Lucci. It’s time for Hoochie Coochie” or “Going for gold like Yamaguchi. It’s time for Hoochie Coochie”
The album is available on iTunes and Spotify. It’s a fun time, which is what I believe Gloria and Pharrell intended to produce. A little stilted at times, yes. Well meaning, yes. Interesting, yes. Worth it, definitely.