Camila establishes pop reign with debut album

Photo courtesy of Epic Records

Currently second in the world in monthly Spotify listeners, Camila Cabello released her much-anticipated debut album on Jan. 12. The well-rounded “Camila” cements her presence as more
than a one-hit wonder and more than her past role in girl group Fifth Harmony.

While she is most known for the hit “Havana” (and its Daddy Yankee remix), the song “Crying in the Club” was her debut single. Since then, she has done multiple collaborations, including “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly. That single gave her the impressive title of first female artist to reach the number one spot on Top 40 Radio both alone and with
a group.

The opening track, “Never Be the Same,” is clearly intended to be the album’s runaway hit, as a radio edit version of it bookends the album. With a catchy chorus about intoxicating young love, the song may lodge in ears and radio waves, but the specific drug metaphor of “Just like nicotine, heroin, morphine” may not be in the best taste during the current
opioid epidemic.

Her eponymous album covers a range of emotions with surprising depth for a 20-year-old relative newcomer. Quieter songs like “After All These Years” and “Consequences” show that Camila’s talent is not limited to energetic hits like “Havana.”

Sandwiched in the middle and towards the end of the album are sadder and more serious tracks, with simple but powerful lines like “No reason to stay is a good reason to go” on “Something’s Gotta Give.”

For those looking for a nearly nauseatingly sweet song, “Inside Out” fits the bill. This track would be forgettable due to its simplistic, repetitive lyrics, but the bridge contains the only lines of Spanish on the album. A whole song in Spanish would have been a welcome addition from the Cuban-American singer, as the French-Cuban duo Ibeyi did on their recent album; maybe future albums from Camila will feature more Spanish to set her apart from other pop artists.

Thematically, the album deals with ideas of home and fame. While Camila mentions places by name (Miami, Los Angeles, Mexico) like in her hit single (Havana, East Atlanta), her songs have a firmly rooted sense of place. Some tracks feel beachy, and others feel better suited to late night city drives.

Having wrestled with fame for years, Camila addresses the fakeness of people around her in “Real Friends” and “In the Dark.”  However, lines like “I just wanna talk about nothin’ / With somebody that means something” touch on a more universal search for companionship not exclusive to celebrities.

Other strong tracks include the celebrations of female power and sexual freedom, “She Loves Control” and “Into It,” respectively. Her voice marshals an intensity that make some tracks into anthems, similar to Sia.

With her full length debut, Camila Cabello asserts her role in the pop world as not limited to catchy singles or reliant on a group of other singers. She also reaffirms the power of a well-done pop album in general: songs that relate to broad experiences of many listeners but still feel deeply personal to the singer herself.

While casual listeners who were looking for a whole album composed of “Havana”-esque hits may be disappointed, fans ready to go on an emotional journey and explore the universal themes of home and friendship will be more than satisfied.