Camila Cabello’s Debut Album ‘Camila’ Shows Promise

After splitting from her X-Factor-bred girl group Fifth Harmony, Camila Cabello began perusing a solo pop career with collaborations like “I Know What You Did Last Summer” with Shawn Mendes and “Bad Things” alongside Machine Gun Kelly. Both tracks charted and gave the 20-year-old enough of a confidence boost to share with the world her debut single “Crying in the Club.” But it wasn’t until the late-2017 release of “Havana” that she began receiving praise from around the world. That song now resides at the forefront of her debut solo album “Camila.”

Havana” sought to lay bare her Cuban roots, and succeeded with just that. In the wake of the astoundingly popular “Despacito,” “Havana” continued the Latin-rich sounds that Americans have fallen in love with over the years – that is, with traditional Cuban piano riffs and a sultry trumpet alongside a drum-kit beat from the song’s producer Pharrell. Cabello was born just outside of Havana in the village of Cojímar, and this explosive single was her ode to her home country; “Half of my heart is in Havana,” she sings. While lyrically this song doesn’t offer much insight into her Cuban upbringing, it bargains by putting up a totally inspired flavor. Conversely, “Never Be the Same,” her second hit from the album, takes a semi-deep dive into a previous relationship by comparing infatuation with the effects of heroin and morphine. She sings this part in an almost charming falsetto, one that nearly cracks but remains sweet and gentle.

Sonically, aside from “Havana,” the album falls within standard manufactured pop. Take “All These Years” which borrows a tropical-acoustic motif or “Real Friends,” a song that uses a common major/minor guitar progression and a couple Adam Levine whistles as well. It’s becoming more difficult to objectively critique pop albums these days, as they seem to become more interchangeable. The only real individuality comes from the singer themselves. Fortunately, Cabello does inject her individuality by way of her Cuban roots, though not so much as to totally set her apart from the pack. Aside from the standout “Havana,” the sounds of “Camila” are predictable.

“Consequences,” however, goes full-ballad with Cabello’s vocal abilities taking center stage. Here’s where she really shines. As she sings part two of the chorus, her voice is reminiscent of Sam Smith as she emotes “And I lost so much more than my senses / ’Cause loving you had consequences.” While the song is an unabashed tear-jerker, it’s underlying tone keeps it balanced making it one of the strongest cuts on the album.

In an interview with Rolling Stone last fall, Cabello said “This (album) sounds like me and only me.” And that’s certainly true to an extent, especially lyrically. The original title for the album was “The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving.” And much of it feels personal, but not quite deep or vulnerable enough to take listeners aback. Overall, there’s enough to make “Camila” a solid pop album, produce chart-worthy singles (which it already has) and create a solid foundation for her future career, which seems bright. It felt like the right move for Cabello to leave a standardized pop group for a solo career, now we wait to see which truly individual direction she’ll go.

Camila” is available Jan. 12 on Apple Music.