A little over a year after her highly publicized split with Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello released her debut solo album. And it’s really good.
It was a big year for Camila Cabello. She released her debut single “Crying in the Club” and performed it at the Billboard Music Awards. She went on tour opening for Bruno Mars. And she released “Havana” which helped her eclipse the accomplishments of her former girl group. It would climb its way up to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and make former President Barack Obama’s list of favorite songs of 2017.
Most of what we heard about the album from Cabello during the course of 2017 was scrapped. “Crying in the Club,” “I Have Questions” and “OMG” were let off the final track list along with the mysterious track written by Ed Sheeran she had teased. She also ditched the wonderfully melodramatic title “The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving,” opting instead for the eponymous “Camila.”
The executive producer of the album was Frank Dukes who has most notably worked on Drake’s “Views,” Lorde’s “Melodrama” and The Weeknd’s “Starboy.” Cabello co-wrote all of the tracks on the album and you can sense that she put a lot of herself into the music.
“Camila” is full of pure pop, but doesn’t aim for the grandstands. It remains very relaxed and reserved, but that’s part of what makes it so good. It focuses on lyrical work and storytelling and Cabello’s enthralling vocals. It also carries the Latin influence from “Havana” through to a lot of the songs.
The album opens with “Never Be the Same” which is the follow up single to “Havana.” “Never Be the Same” is a track about falling in love with someone who will change you forever. Cabello gives the song a burning passion that is infectious. It’s the kind of song you sing in the shower or into your hairbrush in the mirror. It’s a great kickoff to a debut album, making a strong statement from the beginning.
“Never Be the Same” is followed by “All These Years,” which gives strong Ed Sheeran vibes. It’s about running into an ex years after the breakup, and all the loving emotions rushing back to you. The moment where the fluttering harmony vocals come in at the bridge is a jaw dropper.
“She Loves Control” is a sassy reggaeton track, a standout from first listen. The song tells the age old story of the femme fatale who tells boys how it has to go. Stick around for the slinking Spanish guitar that appears in the bridge.
“Inside Out” also plays off her Latin roots. Much like “Havana,” this song transports you to a different place just through it’s instrumentation. The bouncy piano track that introduces the song holds everything together as various percussion elements dance in and out of the track. The lyrics are cheeky and playful, and she even slips a little Spanish in the bridge. It’s a fun track.
After “Inside Out,” the album slows down for some ballads. The first is “Consequences,” a lyrically raw song about how a relationship tore her apart. “Real Friends” is a relatable track about people you trust letting you down. “Something’s Gotta Give” is a heart wrenching track about that moment when you realize a toxic relationship really can’t work. All of these songs showcase Cabello’s lyrical craft and her strong vocals.
Through “In the Dark” Camila Cabello tries to get a person to show their true colors. She senses that they are tired of putting on an act for everyone, and she wants to know who they really are.
“Into It” is probably the pinnacle pop moment of the album. It’s fun and flirty. The track features co-write credits from pop aficionados Ryan Tedder and Justin Tranter. The production is tight with tons of tiny details that reveal themselves over the course of multiple listens. The only let down is the bridge feels like it’s building to a “Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez “I mean I could but why would I want to” moment, but it just coasts instead.
“Camila” is an emotional endeavor. It’s an album of crushes, the moments that you want to last for years and finding yourself. My only complaint is that it’s so short. Ten original songs and one radio edit clocking in at 37 minutes. The choice to leave out songs she had already released is odd, and including the radio edit of “Never Be the Same” is almost infuriating. But, this is only the beginning of Camila Cabello’s solo journey.