You might think you know Camila Cabello: She’s the girl who totally betrayed the world’s most important girl group of all time when she split off to pursue her own solo career (or at least, you might think that’s the way things went down by the frequency of headlines that harped on details of her leaving Fifth Harmony over the past year). But you don’t, not really, not yet. The 20-year-old Mexican-Cuban singer has been fairly quiet about her debut solo album, which she’s spent the past year working on. Today, it’s finally here.
Does it hold up to her breakout hit, “Havana”? Or does it outshine everything else she’s done before? Is it more Taylor Swift or more J Balvin? Is it more full of bops, or more full of ballads? Is there a song that’s secretly about Shawn Mendes? Does she throw her former bandmates under the bus?? (We’ll answer that one for you right now: no, drop it.)
We asked the smartest people we know (ourselves) these questions and did a track-by-track analysis of Camila’s self-titled debut. Strap in.
Frida Garza: Alright, I’ll kick it off. The album opener is “Never Be the Same,” which I wrote about because Camila casually name-drops heroin (of all drugs) as part of an extended metaphor for the effects of love.
I still think that’s pretty insane, but I like the song now.
David Turner: I honestly thought that was a good start to the album.
It sets a nice mood but wasn’t too showy.
FG: I totally agree. It shows off her vocals but she’s not trying too hard (well, lyrics aside).
Shawn Cooke: Absolutely, think it’s a great intro to her skillset.
I think I might agree with Camila stans here, the drug metaphors don’t bother me that much.
It doesn’t excuse it, but there’s so many instances of that in pop music: “Your Love Is My Drug,” etc.
Although heroin is pretty extreme.
FG: To be clear, I’m not anti-metaphors; it just made me go, “Camila, what are you doing!!!”
What about the next track, “All These Years”?
I think she sounds great here, she seems to shine in the big shiny pop moments and the stripped-down ones too.
SC: This is another unfussy arrangement, which puts the spotlight all on Camila and her voice—I’m just torn on including a comedown this early in the album.
FG: Right, this sounds like it should be Track 7 or 8.
SC: Hard agree.
FG: I loooove the next song though, “She Loves Control.” It has a slight Latin feel but the production is very electro-pop.
I was most excited to hear this album after Camila said that J Balvin was one of her influences and this is the first time we hear that on the album.
DT: Yeah, this is like a more tasteful version of the single “Havana,” honestly. I mean, I also like that song, but “She Loves Control” is a nice deep cut that I could see eventually becoming a single.
FG: Yeah, it’s the Bud Light version of “Havana.”
It’s sort of light, more fun and clubby.
SC: Bud Light Platinum! Yeah, this does feel like single material, and I’d say it’s even more precise or more alive than “Havana.”
FG: It’s the song equivalent of a Lime-a-rita.
(Has anyone ever had one?)
SC: I haven’t had either.
FG: Never mind, they are probably both bad, let’s just nix this metaphor.
No, Bud Light is good.
FG: I also think “She Loves Control” is a perfect example of a song she couldn’t have done with Fifth Harmony.
I like “Work From Home” as much as anyone else who has a workout playlist but this feels sort of effortless compared to their heavy-hitter sound.
Should we talk about “Havana” or are we all in agreement that it’s a bop?
SC: In agreement.
DT: IT’S A BOP.
FG: Teaming up with Young Thug was so smart and will probably open a lot of doors for her in terms of future collaborations.
The next song, “Inside Out,” threw me for a loop.
There’s something very twee about the piano.
SC: But the lyrics are really suggestive. (I may be reading too much into it.)
FG: It’s definitely suggestive! But sonically, so kid-friendly.
DT: Oh yeah, this sounds like a Disney song.
SC: Yeah, it definitely has this warm familiarity... Mario Kart music.
FG: Wow, that is so rude to Camila.
SC: Easily one of the first real lulls in the album so far, between this and the next song, “Consequences”
DT: Oh, I didn’t really like this one.
FG: Yeah, I didn’t love this one.
Or the next one, “Real Friends.”
I feel like when the subject matter turns more “serious” (mental health, betrayal, etc.), she also wanted the song to sound more serious, so you get these really slow, dramatic melodies.
But they’re too slow, in my opinion.
DT: It makes me want to take a nap.
SC: The arrangements kind of betray her in the middle here. I think the album’s kind of front-loaded with the songs she really pulls off (“Never Be The Same,” “She Loves Control”).
Which might raise a separate question:
At this point, are there any songs that we think only Camila could pull off, does she have that kind of identity yet?
FG: Oooh, good question.
She’s definitely trying on a lot of styles here, kind of exploring and showing you she can do all these different things.
Like, she could have done a whole record of songs that sound like “She Loves Control,” but she didn’t!
But what really pulls all of them together is her voice.
DT: So I’ll say that even though I like these songs, I don’t feel like she’s really a singer who leaves a big impression in my mind.
FG: Hmm, yeah. She’s a good singer but her style’s not very distinctive yet.
SC: Yeaaah, I’m with this. I think what you said about feeling the need for subject matter to match tone is something that might help her out down the line.
In that she should abandon that instinct, like bangers can be sad as hell or discuss more serious issues.
FG: Yeah, I look forward to hearing more sad bangers in Camila’s future.
I don’t like the next song “Something’s Gotta Give,” but maybe I need coffee.
It is clear that girl has a lot on her mind! There’s a lot of heartbreak here.
SC: And I think this is the most engaging of the ballady heartbreak songs.
Sure, this is the most piano I’ve heard on a pop record as of late.
SC: It’s very Adele.
FG: She’s doing a Taylor Swift thing here.
SC: Can definitely hear that.
FG: Oh my god—yeah, this is a Taylor Swift song.
SC: Even her cadence is different!
FG: Right, listen to the verse: It sounds like something off Reputation.
Which is not a dig!
SC: Reputation has some hits!
Also can I just say this is the longest song of the bunch at 3:56??
Not a single song is more than 4 minutes long.
Should out to Camila for not making a 17-song monster just to get streams.
FG: She knows her audience.
SC: It’s the first song that really feels like it’s building to a climax and is expansive enough to stretch out.
FG: The next song “In the Dark” comes back to the clubby vibe from earlier.
But it feels full of stops and starts.
It’s not a full bop.
SC: This one feels like it’s on autopilot too; there’s some vague bits about “fake friends” revealing who you are when you’re not out and about.
A club song about not being at the club.
FG: On autopilot at the club.
DT: The best kind of club song.
FG: Wow, I just learned this from Genius:
“In the Dark” was “written the day after the Grammys about an “encounter with an unnamed famous boy.”
Do you think it was Shawn Mendes?
SC: ANSEL ELGORT.
SC: Actually nvm.
It was a “famous” person.
FG: Ansel, are you making Camila write sad songs?
The only hint in the lyrics is that the boy doesn’t feel like L.A. is home.
So that’s basically... everyone in L.A.
DT: I blame Shawn Mendes or Shawn Cooke.
SC: I’m the muse.
DT: Honestly, the last song “Into It” sounds like a deep cut from the second Jojo album (2006).
Which isn’t bad, just a bit strange.
SC: “Into It,” I do like.
I am ..... into it.
Some more potential for a single here, the song kind of swells and bursts when you don’t expect it to.
But it isn’t abrasive or anything.
FG: The opening line to “Into It” is my favorite opener so far: “I’m not a psychic but I see myself all over you.”
She should do more songwriting like this—biting, self-assured, maybe even a little bit pissed off. She doesn’t have to be overly serious to be taken seriously!
On the whole, I think Camila needs to define her sound a bit more, figure out what makes a Camila song something that only she can do.
But the album closer comes close to her hitting her stride.
DT: Buy Bud Light Lime-a-rita.
[Ed. note: This post was not sponsored by Bud Light.]