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Album Review: ‘Camila’ by Camila Cabello

If you’ve tuned in to any pop radio station in the past few months, then you’ve probably heard Camila Cabello’s hit single ‘Havana’ (featuring Young Thug). Cabello left Fifth Harmony of X-Factor fame in 2016 to be met with criticism and low expectations for her solo career., But when she released ‘Havana’ last September, it instantly became a huge commercial success, and it made an impressive 23-week climb on the Billboard Hot 100 chart until it reached #1 in January. Now, her debut album ‘Camila’ has arrived, and it shows that Cabello is not just a one-hit wonder.

The 10-track record is a balanced mixture of sexy, fiery tunes, stripped personal songs about her old flames, and songs about her experiences with fame and falling out with friends in the industry. It opens with ‘Never be the Same’, in which Cabello shows off her breathy vocals while singing about an addictive love that’s “Just like nicotine, heroin, morphine.” Then she moves on to chronicle a meeting with a former love, and the regret of never confessing her feelings to them on track two, ‘All These Years’. ‘She Loves Control’ is something of a power anthem, expressing Cabello’s newfound freedom as a solo artist. This empowerment is mirrored in ‘Real Friends’, a song about the desire to find trustworthy people, and to go to new places where nobody knows her name. Some speculate that it’s also a not-so-subtle dig at her former band-mates. Near the album’s end, Cabello exercises her unique raspy vocals again on ‘In the Dark’, where she asks a potential lover to show her the dark parts and let her in when life in L.A. gets them down and lonely. ‘Something’s Gotta Give’ and ‘Into It’ are, to be fair, mediocre break-up and one-night-stand songs, respectively.

The only song left to mention on the album is undoubtedly its best – ‘Consequences’. On this track, Cabello is at her most vulnerable yet. It’s a piano ballad with a more simplistic structure than the rest of the album. Cabello’s emotional voice is in the foregrounded, and the lyrics are her most personal and honest. It starts with confessional lines such as “Lonely pillows in a stranger’s bed” and “Lost a little weight ‘cause I wasn’t eating.” She sings soulfully about a love that was everything from young, to hot, to dark, to sweet; a love that was “sunshine, but then it poured” because of the consequences it had. The bare, honest track shows that Cabello can excel at stripped, mellow tracks just as well as she does at the more energetic ones.

Cabello is of Cuban-American descent, and she pays homage to her cultural heritage on several tracks in the album. In ‘Havana’, she shouts out her birthplace and the city she spent most of her childhood in. ‘She Loves Control’ has a Latino drum beat that carries on throughout the song, while ‘Inside Out’ shows influences from the Miami music scene and includes a verse sung in Spanish, which is no surprise since Cabello also lived in Florida’s vibrant beach city for a few years.

All in all, ‘Camila’ is a strong, multi-layered debut record that combines a personal look into the artist’s past, and character, while still being relatable to listeners.

You can catch Cabello in June on her first UK headlining tour.

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