By Iain Higgins
The cry for Camila Cabello’s debut album has been deafening in the closing months of 2017. The twenty-year-old’s break from former group Fifth Harmony was controversial, and fans have been clamoring to see if she could stand on her own. From the opening moments, it’s easy to tell this album is far more put together than anything Fifth Harmony has ever done, with a more mature sound and an acute observation of what makes pop songs so widely appealing. The album starts out strong with four upbeat songs that keep the beginning of the album light. “Never Be The Same” and “All These Years” are more sedated and melodic, but on “She Loves Control” and “Havana,” Cabello confidently shows the listener how quickly she can shift her tone.
Nothing feels sickly sweet, as one might come to expect from a Fifth Harmony dropout— save for perhaps parts of “Inside Out” and “Consequences,” the two throw-away tracks on the album. They both feel like remnants of her former career, instead of bold new forays into solo life, like the remainder of the album. They follow one another in succession as songs 5 and 6, but once they conclude, the album picks itself up from the minor mid-tracklist slump with “Real Friends.” One of the best songs on the album, it showcases Cabello’s ability to turn an extremely simple riff into something special. She does this same thing earlier in the album on “All These Years”. Cabello’s affinity for the simplistic sets the LP apart from its peers that employ heavy-handed production, to the point of weighing many of these albums down. It is refreshing to hear a tracklist unmuddied by suffocating electronics, and it calls to mind Justin Bieber’s latest album.
Few songs on this album make you want to get up and dance, and that’s a good thing. There are enough pop and hip-hop albums out right now to force you out of your seat. Cabello’s subtle approach to pop instrumentation is a gratifying experience without the need for a dance floor (although “She Loves Control” is one of the best club bangers of the past year). The best songs sit somewhere in between danceable and relaxing, such as “In The Dark” and “Into It,” the album’s two stellar concluding tracks. Sure, they would sound good in a club setting, but they do just as well acting as soundtrack to an easy night in with friends.
The album’s biggest weakness is its lyrical quality. With pop’s run of extremely creative lyricists in recent years, namely Lana Del Rey and Lorde, Cabello’s hackneyed lines about love and growing up feel vapid. She truly needs to work on her wordplay and thematic focus if she wants to stay ahead of the changing and challenging pop market. After all, “Something’s Gotta Give” sounds like it could have been penned by a late ‘90s-era Britney Spears, and that’s not okay in 2018.
Camila is a good piece of pop that is easy to listen to and sticks around after you’re done. It isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but Cabello proves she can stand on her own, apart from a group of four others supporting her. The album’s fresh, slack simplicity is its largest strength, earning it a 7/10 rating.