Camila Cabello’s ‘Camila:’ Album Review

It has been just over a year since Camila Cabello left Fifth Harmony to pursue new opportunities. Armed with one of the most distinctive voices on the scene, a hunger to write her own music and a ready-made fan base, Camila makes the transition to solo star look easy on her self-titled debut LP.

Although she became a pop darling alongside Shawn Mendes and Machine Gun Kelly on a series of standout duets, her first solo release failed to storm the charts. The Christina Aguilera-sampling and Sia-penned “Crying In The Club” had all the makings of a breakout hit. But it sacrificed Camila’s signature sound for generic club beats in a move that felt too calculated.

“The reality of that song is it doesn’t feel or sound like Camila,” her manager Roger Gold admitted in a recent interview with the New York Times. After a fizzling start, everything changed with the release of “Havana.”

Produced by Frank Dukes, the searing Young Thug collaboration breathed new life into her career and dominated the charts. Boasting a swaggering production that pays tribute to Cabello’s Cuban heritage, it was destined to be a hit. And, impressively, it has yet to lose its luster. One of the defining songs of last summer, it still sits at the number two spot on the Billboard Hot 100.

Camila’s second single, “Never Be The Same,” could be just as big. Another of Dukes’ productions, it is a simmering ode to a lover. “Suddenly, I’m a fiend and you’re all I need,” she breathily coos over candy-coated synths. “It’s you babe. And I’m a sucker for the way that you move, babe. And I could try to run, but it would be useless. You’re to blame. Just one hit, you will know I’ll never be the same.”

Buoyed by the release of a sweet music video and an impressive performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, the single is poised to soar higher as its predecessor cools off. It is also just one of a handful of bops that showcase the 20-year-old’s impeccable pop sensibilities.

Her Latin roots are back on display for the commanding “She Loves Control.” Over slick horns and a fiery production courtesy of Skrillex and Dukes (who has a credit on all but one song on the LP), the siren refuses to hand over the reins. It’s a bossy and brassy release, but she carries it with her confidence. “Say what you want, but the way she kills you makes you feel alive. And you know that it feels right,” she belts.

“Inside Out” is tinged with a taste of the tropics. The summery anthem features a calypso-inspired beat and some of Camila’s sugariest vocals as she flirts with a lover. A twinkling marimba and stark drumline make for the perfect dance track. Breezy and coy, it is another certified bop.

Ryan Tedder and Justin Tranter nabbed writing credits on the standout that is “Into It.” The lusty anthem is the most mature song on the LP. “I’m into it. Whatever trouble that you’re thinking, I could get into it. I see a king-sized bed in the corner, we should get into it,” she brazenly recommends over a seductively growling production. This is another dance floor-filler that sounds destined for success while still resonating with her signature sound.

Camila flexes her writing chops on every song from the project. But the LP’s ballads, “Consequences” and “Something’s Gotta Give,” showcase a more introspective side of her musicality. The former is a standout as she yearns for easier moments with a lover over the somber keys of a piano. “Loving you was sunshine, safe and sound. A steady place to let down my defenses. But loving you had consequences,” she laments.

The sentiment is as beautiful as the resulting heartbreak is tear-jerking. But it is the details she weaves into the lyrics that imbue it with true power. “Lost a little weight because I wasn’t eating,” she admits almost as a thoughtful aside. The emotionally fraught “Something’s Gotta Give” is equally aural and impressive as Camila recounts the pain of attempting to make a broken relationship work.

She strikes on a similar brand of earnestness on the album’s midtempos. Described as one of her favorites, “All These Years” is a nostalgia-inducing song about running into a former flame. Lush with her unique vocal flourishes and acoustic strings, it echoes with longing for what could have been. “After all these years, I still feel everything when you are near,” she realizes.

The LP’s final buzz track “Real Friends” voices a request for loyal friendships over folksy strings. A follow-up of sorts to “I Have Questions,” this is the only offering that even hints at shading her former group mates. “I’m just looking for some real friends, all they ever do is let me down,” she announces as she moves on without a backward glance.

In contrast, “In The Dark” pleads with a boy to unmask his true self over ethereal whispers. It builds to a whirling chorus and is another attempt at making a lasting and legitimate connection. “You can strip down without showing skin,” she coos, making it clear that she is searching for a different kind of intimacy.

Authentic and cohesive, the album is filled with potential hits that could dominate the scene in the months to come. Blending her distinctive brand of folksy pop with a Latin flair, Camila delivers an impressive body of work.

Score: 4/5

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