For her first English album in eight years, Gloria Estefan decided to freshen her sound a little bit by hiring head Neptune Pharrell Williams as producer. If she had done this back in 2007, when the Neptunes were easing out of the spotlight, this pairing would have an element of risk, but in 2011, it feels a bit like a retro flashback to an era that’s yet to develop a patina of nostalgia. Certainly, Pharrell gives Estefan a livelier setting than she’s accustomed to, yet his rhythms are straitjacketed they don’t breathe, they march along a straight line. As such, Miss Little Havana seems a little earthbound, generating a real pulse when Pharrell can cut loose with the arrangements, piling up the synths and layering the rhythms. These cuts, like “Make Me Say Yes,” are the ones that bring Estefan closest to the night club -- with the notable exception of “Hotel Nacional” with its cringe-inducing Charo shout-outs -- but if she’s tending toward Cuban rhythms or ballads, everything feels a little stiff and mannered, and certainly not like the colorful, endless party its singer and producer intended.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
feat: Adrian "Phe" Santalla