Camila Cabello’s long-delayed debut album, establishing herself as a solo artist after leaving Fifth Harmony, comes in the wake of smash hit single “Havana”, which the album was supposedly restructured around. While I can’t immediately see how this was done, as the album contains many slower ballads and more standard pop tracks, Camila is a brief glimpse at Cabello’s artistry apart from the group that is very solid, if not yet spectacular. Produced mainly by Frank Dukes, who has recently worked with numerous visionaries in Lorde, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, Cabello’s unique voice and slight Latin edge she brings to most of these tracks establishes an artist in control, even if most of her choices stay safe for now.
“Never Be The Same”, recently released as the follow up to “Havana”, is a great example for where most of this album stands – the chorus is absolutely explosive and an earworm of the highest degree and seriously showcases Cabello’s potential as a main pop artist going forward, but the surrounding energy of the track falls slightly flat at times. The pre-chorus features her singing primarily in her upper register without much instrumental support, and she hasn’t quite figured out this area of her voice yet. As it stands, it is thin and squeaky and doesn’t convey much – but once those backing vocals swell in to support her powerful lower range on that chorus I’m immediately sold once more. The vast majority of the album showcases a select few fantastic musical moments with a single choice that holds it back from becoming truly special. “Havana” still stands out as a spectacular track due to its fully established musical direction and fuller instrumental, distinguishing from the minimalist ballad tracks that populate most of the album.
Don’t discount Cabello as a songwriter either. “Consequences” is easily the best track here. The stripped-back ballad took my breath away, and in a rare occurrence, made me stop my first listen to hear it a few times more. Cabello offers her most personal, confessional lyrics and brings some serious emotional depth to her vocal delivery as she sings of the negative effect of the end of a relationship on her mental health, losing the “steady place to let down my defenses”. The quiet piano chords backing up her softer, breathy vocals complement the track perfectly, swelling at just the right moments as Cabello hits the emotional peaks in her lyrics. This track alone gives me full confidence in Cabello’s ability to become a global pop superstar in the future – not everyone can deliver a track that affects me emotionally this much on a debut album.
I really do love the Latin, tropical flair Cabello brings to a lot of these tracks – even if something like “She Loves Control” carries elements of the dancehall craze that is dominating the radio waves at the moment, there is a greater degree of authenticity in Cabello’s delivery – this isn’t Drake with a fake patois, and an artist who can turn something like “Havana” into a hit single is very refreshing as aspects of Latin music are increasingly popularized. Those few seconds of a Spanish guitar at the end of the track are a great touch and brings the listener further into the bigger picture of what Cabello represents in today’s musical landscape.
“Real Friends” and “Inside Out” are a couple of fun, tropical pop tracks that carry the same Frank Dukes feel over from “Havana”. While much more lyrically basic, getting inane as the track continues to its conclusion, hearing pop music based on something like the island piano loop on “Inside Out” is enough of an interesting sonic experience that the novelty of the project is enough – when she starts singing in Spanish on the bridge it just carries it even more.
Ultimately, Camila gives a brief, introductory glimpse at the picture of Cabello as her own solo artist, free to add the artistic flourishes that a more manufactured group like Fifth Harmony lacks. As a result, the project has a much greater degree of personality than her ex-bandmates’ latest effort, even if they are both solid yet unspectacular pop projects. Still, there is no filler here, these are all well-structured and catchy pop tracks that suggest Cabello is here to stay.
Favourite Tracks: Consequences, Havana, Real Friends, She Loves Control, Inside Out
Least Favourite Track: All These Years