Album Review: Camila by Camila Cabello

When a member breaks away from a music group, everyone tends to evaluate the choice from the perspective of success – how have they managed to make a dent in the charts, pre and post-split. With three underperforming solo singles initially released in 2017 (“Crying in the Club”, “I Have Questions” and “OMG”), I had this feeling the remaining members of Fifth Harmony rightfully shaded her, when they pushed her mannequin off the stage during the VMAs.

With the release of “Havana”, the trajectory of history changed. She had a hit bigger than what any of them combined were able to come up with. It’s a bonus she outpaced her former bandmates. But the case for change on why she had to part ways is that nothing this personal and introspective would’ve come from the group staying together.

After all, Fifth Harmony was the product of a talent competition. It was hard enough to find a set of five unique individuals and blending their skills into output the general public would consume. But for any theme, style or lyrics to resonate among the five, it requires always finding the least common denominator or the greatest common factor.

Infusing her Latin sound and references to her roots would be forgotten. Her frustration with fame and living in LA are nothing but thoughts she’d have to keep. She will sing of heartbreak but not hers. All of these become sidenotes and creative control would be impossible.

Despite the presence of thousands in the songwriting and production credits, Camila comes off authentic and accurate. It’s a record I feel she had a hand in crafting and I can say is hers.

The album is far from groundbreaking. It talks about falling in and out of love, authenticity in an industry where identities continuously morph and taking control of life’s many facets. None of these are new.

But the album does the job of not trying too hard. It is sonically cohesive. There is no excess drama you’d expect from the publicity she’s attracting. And you are hearing a piece of her mind.

“Havana” would be the highlight for most. And replicating its success will be a struggle. But there are pop hits that radio will eat up. She knows how to record heartbreaking anthems like “Consequences” and “All These Years”. There are bops like “Into It” and “Inside Out”.

But if you ask me, the real gem in the album is “She Loves Control”. Besides being a banger, it’s the perfect synthesis to this era. It’s a demonstration of how she dominates even in setups you’d expect her to cave. It is a Skrillex record but with little for the DJ to claim.

Camila is a step in the right direction. I’ve never fully listened to a Fifth Harmony record. However, I’m willing to bet that any of them will pale in comparison to this one. If there was any doubt in my mind, it has certainly been shattered.

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