Camila offers consistency, but maybe too much

January 19, 2018

Former Fifth Harmony group member Camila Cabello’s debut solo, self-titled album released on Jan. 12 with 10 different tracks ranging from delicate, melancholy tracks like “Consequences” and “All These Years” to the slow anthem and lead single, “Havana.” Cabello shows great promise in vocals and lyrics, but the final result leaves a lot to be desired, namely in material and memorability.

With recent hits like “Crying in the Club” and “Havana,” Cabello inspired anticipation from old and new fans alike. Cabello released “OMG” and “Crying in the Club” prior to the full album as potential promotional singles, but later scrapped them from the track list.

Although her debut is primarily based in the pop category, Cabello considers elements of form from other musical genres, pairing lyrics in Spanish with Latin-inspired beats. As she did in Fifth Harmony, Cabello incorporates some R&B techniques into her music, featuring rapper Young Thug as the only voice other than her own in the entire album, in “Havana.”

Cabello’s album appears both more soulful and sorrowful than her former band’s hits; some of the songs, however, blend together, despite the different titles. They may have distinctly appealing lyrics and instrumentals, but with few exceptions like “Havana,” Cabello maintains a style almost too repetitive. Her vocals, while clear and sweet, do not have much versatility, at least on this album.

Considering “Camila” is her first full solo effort, Cabello demonstrates impressive unity in regards to songwriting voice. Transitioning from having little creative control over Fifth Harmony’s music to writing on every song in her album is quite a feat. The album is seamless, but could be more exciting if it was more diverse in sound. Cabello’s record certainly has some distinctions across tracks, but as a whole she draws too much from the same few experiences. She evidently learned a lot from her time with Fifth Harmony;her next album effort, however, would benefit from a more varied body of emotional inspiration instead of the same romances.

Many songs on the album allude to Cabello’s love life, with the first track, “Never Be the Same,” specifically exploring an intoxicating romance which she compares to a drug addiction. Based on lyrics in many of such songs, Cabello has not had entirely positive experiences with romance. In “Consequences,” she reminisces soberly about a particularly unfortunate relationship, saying “Loving you was dumb, dark and cheap/Loving you still takes shots at me.” While she is certainly practiced in writing songs about heartbreak, Cabello’s album might have been more interesting if she sourced her lyrics from a wider variety of experiences.

“She Loves Control” and “Real Friends” are a good starting points for Cabello to expand her lyrical content. She proves she has the ability to move past simple love songs with confidence. Evidently, she needs to understand and express herself more than she needs to comment on the same few relationships. Women writing songs about their boyfriends is nothing new, nor is it shameful, but Cabello could benefit if she looked beyond romance for inspiration. At only 20 years old, she might have fewer experiences than a more senior artist, but her life as a young pop star coming in to her own should provide more than enough song material.

Overall, “Camila” is more serious than upbeat. It does not feel very inspiring or enlivening to listen to, but it is beautiful. The album does not sound common, it seems very specific to Camila Cabello, but manages to remain somewhat forgettable. It is hard to pinpoint exactly what to feel while listening to the assortment of slow ballads and odes to Cabello’s past. The album definitely has more niche appeal than potential for popular appreciation and is better taken in pieces than altogether.

The singer caused controversy a year ago when she made the decision to quit Fifth Harmony, a girl group she had been part of since 2012. Conflicting accounts of Cabello’s break with the band from herself and her former bandmates especially stirred up conflict. But in “Camila,” Cabello moves past this controversy and the restrictions of her former group to go back to her roots. She renamed the album from “The Hurting, the Healing, the Loving” to “Camila” to represent how she came back to herself, though the content of her album still fits with the original title.

Though Camila Cabello’s first solo album is in many ways a success, especially in terms of lyrical prowess, she has work to do in regards to emotional subject matter, general catchiness, and broad appeal.

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