Crescent Moon, USA
by Blanca Méndez
If you’re curious about Miami’s party circuit but are too scared of the beach bods, art deco, and republicans to book a flight out there (guilty!), all you have to do is listen to Gloria Estefan’s latest album, Miss Little Havana. It works even better if you are wearing a white suit or one of those flowy pattern-mixing dresses that Uli Herzner made during Season 3 of Project Runway. Estefan, with her signature battling rhythms and saucy brass, transports you to Miami Beach, and, no, this isn’t Estefan on some retro “Conga” trip (not that there’s anything wrong with that), it’s current and fresh and don’t you dare underestimate or underappreciate Gloria Estefan.
Those of you who think that Estefan cannot be relevant in today’s dance scene, have you even heard “Wepa”? Because, like Julianne Escobedo Shepherd once tweeted, “if you ain’t fuckin with ‘Wepa,’ I ain’t fuckin with you.” Also, y’all are straight up ageist. This dance jam for the working class features some intense percussion (even her voice feels like part of the rhythm section sometimes) and bright trombone, along with a ton of other sounds like whistles and sirens that will make you dizzy in the best way. I’m not even that mad about the Pitbull remix like I’m mad about most things involving Pitbull.
The aptly titled “Heat” (because it’s HOT) is sparse in its instrumentation, and it’s precisely this sparseness that makes it so sexy. The timbales and congas act as the backbone of the song, providing a subtly accentuated rhythm that's surprisingly good for strutting. The track also features the amazing line, “As you’re dancing you look down and stare at your body. It’s so confusing you sip on your drink,” which is like, “What?” Then she’s all, “The ecstasy ends quicker than you think,” and you’re like, “Oh.” There’s also "Make My Heart Go," a merengue track with some insane brass, and "Right Away" hearkening back to the disco '70s. There are some admittedly weaker songs on the album (not the “Let’s Get Loud” bonus track, though!). “Make Me Say Yes” talks about Prince Charming, which ugh, and “Hotel Nacional” is kind of cute with its jitterbug vibe, but it ultimately centers on the build-up to finding rhymes for “hoochie coochie,” which is simultaneously awful and awesome.
It’s been four years since Estefan’s last album, and eight years since her last English-language album, but the time lapse is irrelevant when you listen to something as exciting as Miss Little Havana. And, yeah, Pharrell produced it, but I wouldn’t necessarily give the creator of Qream too much credit. He might have added a little “edge” here and there, but there’s such a wide range of dance styles and they are executed so beautifully that you know that Estefan was the one in charge. This manipulating of rhythms to summon people to the dance floor (or the streets or wherever it is that the party is happening) is what she's been doing since her days in Miami Sound Machine. And it's her innate ability to work with traditional Latin styles while still having her fingers on the pulse of what's occurring in the present to create music for people who take their partying seriously that makes Gloria Estefan such an important figure not only in Latin music, but also on the international dance stage.