Her family fled Cuba when she was just a baby, but Gloria Estefan has never strayed far from the rhythms that made the island famous. Born Gloria Fajardo, she met and married Emilio Estefan and, together, their fusion of pop, disco and salsa made Miami Sound Machine one of the biggest bands of the 1980s. “Come on, shake your body, do the conga,” Gloria sang, “I know you can’t control yourself any longer.” Few could resist the dancefloor pull of massive hit songs like “Conga.”
Estefan went on to become a Latin crossover superstar, selling more than 100 million albums worldwide and winning seven Grammy Awards—way before Shakira or Jennifer Lopez ever shook their bon-bons. Along the way, she survived a near-fatal car crash, raised two children and turned to softer, more ballad-oriented fare. But now Estefan is back with her first all-dance album in 13 years and can once again confidently declare that “the rhythm is gonna get you.”
Produced by Pharrell Williams (Britney Spears), Miss Little Havana, with its emphasis on live horns and Latin beats, celebrates Miami Sound Machine’s signature sound. “It’s time for hoochie coochie,” Estefan sings on the giddy “Hotel Nacional,” one of several references to her birthplace. Tracks like the frenetic “Wepa” and “Let’s Get Loud,” which she originally wrote for J.Lo, crank up the party atmosphere. Estefan’s 16-year-old daughter Emily even shows up to play guitar. With Miss Little Havana, the Queen of Latin Pop is back to show how it’s done.