The wait is over. Camila Cabello’s long-awaited debut album is finally here. After just two album cycles with her former girl group, Fifth Harmony, Cabello departed from the group in December 2016 in hopes of a solo career. Of course, there was backlash from Fifth Harmony and Harmonizers alike, but everyone was curious as to how she would do as a soloist. What route would she take? How could she break away from being known as the Fifth Harmony girl? Would she chart? These are the questions everyone was asking themselves all year. Prior to the album release, Cabello had lended her vocals to big names such as Machine Gun Kelly, Shawn Mendes and Major Lazer, but still, the public, myself included, were curious as to what body of work she could create on her own after so many features. So without further ado, let’s get into it.
Track 1, Never Be the Same (radio edit included)
“Never Be the Same” acted as one of two tracks Cabello released prior to the album’s release. On first listen, I admit I wasn’t loving it. It’s a hard hitter, with a head banging drum pattern that lasts through the entire song. The most notable part of the song, arguably, is the prechorus in which Cabello incorporates a very breathy falsetto as she compares her lover’s effects on her to hardcore drugs. Upon hearing this part for the first time, it came completely from left field: I had never heard anything like it. After, the hard hitting chorus returns, and Cabello’s vocal delivery is incredible. Senses of desperation and passion linger in her voice throughout each chorus, which makes the song a standout and great choice for an opener. She gets the job done. When I found out the song was to be released as the second single, I was ecstatic. Just like its predecessor, it’s like nothing on the radio. Freshness goes a long way in this industry, and Cabello understands. One of my favorites from the album for sure.
Track 2, All These Years
Reminiscent of a later track of the album, “Real Friends”, “All These Years” includes only a simple electric guitar melody, and it’s honestly the only thing the song needs. As for lyrical content, Cabello sings about her emotions after an encounter with an old flame. She ultimately regrets her decision to not tell her ex-lover her true feelings, but instead settles with the fact that he is still the one she has her eyes after all this time. Open, honest, and vulnerable, Cabello articulates her feelings in such a way that listeners just can’t help but empathize with each word she says. Cabello dives deep into her emotions, singing lines like After all these years, I still feel everything when you are near, and it was just a quick hello, and you had to go, and you probably will never know, you’re still the one I’m after all these years, Cabello sings. One thing’s clear: you can’t fake the authenticity Cabello exhibits on just the second track of her debut. I can tell exactly what she experienced, what she felt, and above all, I can tell she wrote it. Authenticity is crucial as a debut artist in order for your audience to truly appreciate and understand who you are. For this very reason, I’m not at all shocked that this song, has found its way into my daily rotation.
Track 3, She Loves Control
Three words. She did that. “She Loves Control”, full of the Latin flair present in “Havana”, is the track I knew she had in her. Cabello finds her flow in the song easily while singing about a girl who, well, is a control freak. She’s a heartbreaker, but she can find her next lover with much ease. On the first listen, I wondered if Cabello was singing about herself, and after a little research, it turns out I was right! With debut albums, it’s very rare that a label will give full creative control to the artist. Usually, the artist often times acts as a label puppet in order to get their foot in the door of the industry with hopes of an honest album somewhere down the line. But, obviously, it’s clear Cabello wasn’t having any of that. One thing I knew about Cabello’s album even before listening is that she wanted it to be “100% her”. It seems that she got the control she wanted, and also made a very catchy song to highlight that experience. Future single choice, perhaps? Here’s hoping.
Track 4, Havana (feat. Young Thug)
Okay. Let’s get very real here. Have you heard a song like this before? Ever? I sure as hell haven’t. If you haven’t heard this song, I’d assume you live under a rock. “Havana” is as fresh as a pop song comes, complete with one of the best hooks I’ve heard. Cabello uses her Cuban and Mexican heritage to full advantage on the song, complete with an infectious piano melody that carries through the whole track. A sleeper hit, “Havana” spontaneously had huge success, to my (and Cabello’s) surprise. Released as a “double feature” along with non-album track “OMG”, “Havana” was chosen as the official lead single of Camila, after success didn’t come with initial lead single, now considered “buzz single”, “Crying in the Club”. Assisted by rapper Young Thug, Cabello sings of a love that has her torn between Thug’s Atlanta, and where her heart is, Havana. The song found major success globally, and it is currently #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, and has been for about seven non-consecutive weeks, a feat only accomplished by Lady Gaga. This song was one of my most played of 2017, and I’m sure it’ll be the same for this year as well. Hands down, favorite track on the album
Track 5, Inside Out
In the first four seconds of this song, I was ready to hate it. I was ready to delete it from my library to never listen to it again. I was ready to tell all my friends how much I hate it. I remember thinking it belonged on a Smurfs soundtrack or something like that. But when the bassline comes in… it was a different story for me. It became very clear what Cabello’s intentions were with this track: a fun, simple, and catchy song with Latin flair comparable to “Havana” and “She Loves Control”. It’s become one of my favorites from the album. The song serves as another upbeat track that could serve as a single choice. Prior to Cabello’s album release, it never came to me how much the industry was missing pop tracks tinged with Latino elements, but Cabello fits the mold without question with only three offerings so far. You don’t wanna miss this one.
Track 6, Consequences
A deep cut, “Consequences” chronicles a love gone very wrong. This is a heartbreak we all know too well: a heartbreak that takes everything out of us and makes us lose who we are. Cabello articulates these feelings exceptionally, with one of my favorite moments in the song being the stark contrast of the high and low parts of the relationship. The writing is incredibly real; you can’t make this stuff up. A listener can tell just through her enunciation that she knows exactly what she’s talking about, and I immediately believe her. Additionally, the listener gets a very good understanding of how what Cabello’s voice can do. An impeccable lower register, vocal agility for days, and a new, fresh falsetto that I, for one, can’t get enough of. Like any song, though, there are cons. There are a few awkward moments in which it feels like Cabello just shoved lyrics in places where they shouldn’t have been. To a certain extent, the awkward moments are okay. They feel real. But it’s just a little too noticeable for me.
Track 7, Real Friends
Another song with singer-songwriter elements, “Real Friends” parallels the second track, “All These Years”, perfectly. As for lyrical content, it’s very, very clear who the song is directed towards. Cabello spent almost five years in Fifth Harmony, from 2012 to 2016, and her departure was not well received by Fifth Harmony and their fans alike. Fans loyal to Camila came to her defense, while fans loyal to the other four girls relentlessly attacked Camila for her premature departure. As for me, I was a bit surprised that Camila’s departure happened when it did. Fifth Harmony was on track to become great as a fivesome: “Work From Home” was a huge song in 2016, peaking at #4, and eventually going on to become a worldwide hit. Other notable singles while Cabello was a part of the group include “Worth It”, “BO$$”, and “All in My Head (Flex)”. But success doesn’t buy happiness, according to Cabello. In the song, she sounds miserable. When listening to the lyrics, it sounds like she was done so wrong. You start to pity her. And for someone who was initially on Fifth Harmony’s side of things, I was surprised as to what she had to say, and how much I sympathized with it. There are always two sides to every story and there’s always miscommunication. What I do hope, though, is that they eventually make amends for a comeback in coming years.
Track 8, Something’s Gotta Give
Another piano ballad, this track showcases Cabello’s vocals better than the previous ballad. She finds comfortability in the final chorus; she doesn’t overdo it, she keeps it simple, and subsequently, it goes over well. But at the same time, I feel like she’s holding back. The production’s probably my favorite part of the song. It builds on top of the piano, with additives being a soft drum pattern along with minimal synths. In the song, Cabello discusses a relationship in which she feels as if she is giving her full efforts, while her partner isn’t giving anything in return. Instead, he makes her feel small, relentlessly lies, and refuses to do anything about it. Cabello then resonates with the fact that her only option is to leave. Cabello’s signature raspy voice is the first thing I noticed in the song, especially in the second chorus where the three-part harmony comes in. Her voice sets her apart, and I feel as if she has come to that realizaiton as well. It’s what the public need right now.
Track 9, In the Dark
This song has a good message. Cabello pleads with her love interest to show her who they really are within, when people aren’t watching. The production is seamless and one of my favorites, production wise, on the album. I love the synths that follow throughout the entire song. The problem I’ve had with this song, along with a few other songs on the album, is that it feels a bit awkward. The hook, for one, in which Cabello tries to rhyme “dark” with an “I” sound, and especially the bridge, where Cabello uses her falsetto differently than what we’ve previously heard on the album. I appreciate the vocal variety she offers on the track and I know it’s a few of my friends’ favorite tracks, but as for me, I’ll pass. It’s almost good. I feel like it could’ve been executed a little better. Not one of my favorites.
Track 10, Into It
Before I had listened to the album, I was seeing this track everywhere on my Twitter timeline. It seemed to be an immediate favorite, and I wanted to skip to this song immediately on my first listen through of the album, but unfortunately I had to wait until the absolute last song. As a closer, I’d assume Cabello would want to finish her debut effort on a strong note, and I assumed right. To put it simply, this song is really good. It’s perfect pop: simple but smart, catchy, and all the makings of a number one hit, and weirdly, it reminds me a lot of Ariana Grande’s 2016 hit, “Into You”. If this song isn’t a single, I’ll be equally very surprised and very sad. It shows Cabello in a new, sexually liberated light, in which she continually gives her consent to whatever her partner has in mind for her. My favorite line of the song, I’m into it, whatever trouble that you’re thinking I could get into it, I see a king size bed in the corner, we should get into it, shows the effortlessness and naturalness of Cabello and team’s songwriting abilities. They have a gem on their hands, and they need to capitalize immediately. It’s pop magic.
I’m pleasantly surprised with Camila Cabello’s debut. I applaud her for not going the predictable route that would’ve included high octane power pop songs backed by big budget producers and songwriters. Instead, Cabello uses vulnerability as her biggest advantage by including songs that have singer-songwriter influences, as well as songs that incorporate her Cuban-Mexican heritage. These elements, also fueled by Cabello’s goal to make an album 100% real, make for a different, yet impressive, debut album. A few things confuse me about Camila, though. For one, it’s incredibly short for a debut album. I’m missing tracks like “Crying in the Club”, which is, honestly, a better song than a lot of songs on this album. It’s the same with non-album tracks “OMG” and “I Have Questions”. All three of these tracks would’ve fit like a glove on this album, and I’m a little sad they weren’t included. With that being said, debut albums are difficult. As an artist, you have to figure out your image, what you want to say, how you want to say it, as well as what sound you’d like to capitalize on, all while aiming to be taken seriously… in about twelve songs or less. It seems as if Cabello found her rhythm very naturally, and subsequently made a cohesive, honest, unpredictable, and heavily praised body of work. It’s found my way into my daily rotation, and frankly, I’m getting obsessed with her. She’s the pop star we need right now. Get into her.