Staying true to her roots after 25 years with the group, Miami Sound Machine and 26 albums later, Gloria Estefan is back with a collection of infectious tunes that fans will love and newbies will embrace. With a large portion of “Miss Little Havana” being produced by Pharrell, the album follows a storyline that’s sexy and sensuous. At a recent listening party with the ‘Latin Princess’, Gloria said she envisioned a storyline similar to Spike Lee’s, “Girl 6″ complete with sexy phone message interludes that often included references to Estefan’s nickname, Missy as well as recorded excerpts utilizing Pharrell. The loose storyline follows a 17 year old girl ‘with a body just like a model’ as sung in the title track, “Miss Little Havana”. She then heads out for a night at the club only to run into her ex in which she throws caution to the wind and reignite this love affair in “I Can’t Believe”.
The album plays more like a deejay playlist from beginning to end escalating to new musical heights on every track. Estefan’s rich vocals pair well with Pharrell’s urban sensibilities. “There was major chemistry between Pharrell and I, we clicked. I felt the same way when I recorded, “Primitive Love” and “Let It Loose”. “It’s kinda like Miami Sound Machine brought around again only 25 years later.” Gloria was quick to let us know that although she embraced Pharrell’s initial idea for a new project, it was important for her to not produce a contrived project that didn’t represent who she was. “It was important for us to bring in the sound of live horns and percussion that my audience has grown to love, it’s still us.”
One of the reason’s we haven’t heard from Estefan for several years isn’t because she hasn’t been busy. Besides raising her two children, particularly Emily (Em) the youngest, she’s been busy with all of her businesses with her husband/business partner Emilio. Together besides owning several restaurants, two hotels, a portion of the Miami Dolphins they are involved in several charities as well Gloria being the author of two children’s books. In sitting down with Estefan it’s very clear that family is the most important thing to the singer. Both of her children, Nayib and Emily are associated with the new project. Nayib is shooting mini-webisodes showing behind the scenes of Gloria’s life surrounding the new project. When asked whether she’s embraced social media, Estefan is quick to say it’s unavoidable. Pharrell made her join Twitter and she’s very aware the music industry has changed dramatically since the time she first came onto the scene or even since her last album.
Her daughter Emily plays guitar as well as drums. Her guitar is layered all over the track, “On” with an effective solo that fuses perfectly with all of the percussive elements like cow bells, congas and timbales. She even experimented with the first single, “Wepa” creating a slammin remix that the BBC picked up for rotation not knowing it was produced by Estefan’s daughter. Going by the dj name, Keisha Mai Ash, Emily is well onto her own musical endeavors. But it’s the future dance floor classic, “Right Away” that was awarded favorite track from both children. Estefan shared that her children’s reviews were the most important even before anyone else gave their feedback. “They’re very honest and listen to so many types of music.”
Other standout tracks include, “Hotel Nacional” which she’s anxious to see it performed by the drag queen community. “They’ll do it better than I could ever do,” Estefan laughs as she said it was difficult to find phrases that rhymed with hoochie, coochie. In addition, fans will get to hear her version of, “Let’s Get Loud” which she penned for Jennifer Lopez, but included it as a gift to her fans who asked to hear her version. She’ll also be releasing several remixes for many of the tracks including remixes of their first hit, “Conga”, which is celebrating it’s 25th year.
It’s clear that “Miss Little Havana” was a labor of love for Estefan. “I’m still excited about music, it’s my outlet, my catharsis.” “You can have ten bucks or a billion dollars, you’re gonna end up on the same dance floor sweating it out and having a good time.” “We need some fun…the whole world is going through some serious stuff. I felt it was a good moment in time to create dance music to help forget about the hardships and have some fun.”
Ideal Listening: Perfect album to play while getting ready or any time you need to get the party started. Very infectious like a dj playlist from beginning to end.
Rating: 3 1/2 Pulses