Leaving American girl-group Fifth Harmony in December 2016, Camila Cabello shows she is more than capable of going alone with her honest, heart-wrenching debut album.
The 20-year-old has taken the world by storm in 2017, ending with #1 hit ‘Havana’ (oh na na) under her belt, as well as being the most listened to female artist on Spotify, and #2 most listened to artist after Ed Sheeran with 43 million listeners. Which is pretty impressive considering she only released her album in January this year.
Camila Cabello has become the third female artist to have a first week as number one on the Billboard 200 at the same time as being number one on the Hot 100. The last artists to do this were Beyonce with ‘Crazy in Love’ and Dangerously in Love in 2003, preceded by Britney Spears with track and album with the same name ‘…Baby One More Time’ in 1999.
Originally meant to be called The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving, Camila provides a rebirth for Cabello. Breaking away from the sexualised pop-hits from Fifth Harmony, Cabello has writing credits on every track. Cabello’s long-awaited solo debut is a personal statement, low-key and mellow even when it’s infused with the rhythms of her Cuban-Mexican heritage.
Compared to previous songs, Camila is stripped down, focusing on Cabello’s biggest asset: her voice. She doesn’t go for ‘bangers’, and the album is dominated by slower, intricate songs. ‘Havana’ is the nearest Camila comes to a dance track, yet even that song is a bittersweet reverie of diaspora romance. She gets intimate in the reggaeton lilt of ‘She Loves Control’ and the light tropical steel-drum breeze of ‘Inside Out’, where she swerves between English and Spanish. She puts her heart into her lyrics, particularly evident in songs such as ‘Something’s Gotta Give’: “Counterfeit emotions only run skin deep/Know you’re lying when you’re lying next to me, next to me.”
This is a new chapter for Cabello, and we are listening to her story-telling, personal diary. Part of the speculated reasons for her leaving Fifth Harmony is that Cabello felt the group were “too sexualised”. Her song ‘Into It’ proves you can be sultry without going overboard: “I see a king-sized bed in the corner, we should get into it.”
Cabello sounds comfortable in herself. It’s hard to carve out any unique space in the crowded female vocal market, but as the first female in history to have a debut album go to #1 in 100+ countries, Cabello will be just fine.