Next gen’s big pop star
I was listening to the Rolling Stone Music Now podcast the other day, specifically an episode titled ‘How Camila Cabello Conquered Pop’. I saw the title and immediately thought ‘she has?’ I had obviously heard (and loved) ‘Havana’ but besides that major hit I had never really taken Camila Cabello seriously. Since listening to her debut album Camila (2018) so many times over the past couple of weeks, I see that I had made a very classic mistake.
It’s easy to underestimate any pop group manufactured by Simon Cowell on a reality show. It’s easy to underestimate the first member of said group to leave. It’s easy to underestimate young women. As I’m sure many us of did, I underestimated Camila Cabello, probably more than I did Zayn Malik when he left One Direction. Perhaps this is because, in terms of age and target demographic, I just missed Fifth Harmony as a pop culture phenomenon, while I managed to catch a bit of the One Direction hype. Perhaps it’s the lack of attraction (if very suppressed … I’m sure deep down somewhere I see Zayn as an attractive man). Or maybe, and unfortunately most probably, it is because she is a young woman as opposed to a young man and we still don’t trust young, female artists to have a vision and fight for it. Whatever the reason is, I was wrong because Camila is one of the best pop albums released this year and a lot of that is thanks to Camila herself.
What I didn’t know until informed by the lovely Rolling Stone journalists, is that Camila has writing credits on every song on this album—for comparison, Ariana Grande does not have writing credits on all her songs. For such a young artist, both terms of age and career length, this is wonderfully impressive.
Having writing credits is one thing, it’s a whole other for these songs to actually be great. Camila is a great pop album with some lively Latina and R&B motifs infused in there like warm chocolate sauce in a cake. ‘Havana’ is the obvious example but the song that precedes it, ‘She Loves Control’, is also a lovely, sexy number and ‘Inside Out’ is a lot of fun to listen to in the morning to get you going for the day. The Latina vibes could be expected from Camila, it’s the pure pop anthems that really caught me.
Camila opens with ‘Never Be The Same’, which is the second single off the album. This song is so good. It’s got a lovely hook, a great chorus and Camila finally gets to show off the beautiful, low timbre of her voice. In the few Fifth Harmony songs I actively engaged with, Camila’s parts were always my least favourite. To put it harshly, she sounded like a goat trying to have sex appeal. I put this down to her being a nineteen-year-old being asked to sell sex—the complete change in her vocals in this album, particularly this first song, is a demonstration that during her time in Fifth Harmony our girl was being asked to be a drastically different performer. This new identity suits her and it was such a good move to start the album with a song that illustrates this so powerfully. She sounds comfortable and that allows me, as a listener, to relax and get into it with her.
‘Real Friends’ is a highlight on the album for me. It’s laid back, melancholy without being too emotional or preachy. She’s got a bit of a Selena Gomez thing going on in this one, which I enjoy.
The ballads are beautiful, ‘Consequences’ (besides having an atrocious film clip) is a great, contained song, as is ‘Something’s Gotta Give’. She’s reserved in her vocal performance and there aren’t any of those awful vocal runs I hate so much.
There’s not much I can say about this album besides the fact that I was so pleasantly surprised by it. It’s an absolute joy to listen to her really come into herself as a singer and vocal performer. It’s exciting to see this young woman thrive and to have her hard work pay off.
The Rolling Stone journalists were predicting that Camila will be the next great pop performer for the younger generation. They might be right. Her songs are catchy, she’s clearly talented and hardworking, and her team is putting everything into her image and onstage performances. She’s still young but so far the biggest controversy to plague her career has been her leaving a manufactured group to go put everything she’s got into her dream of being a serious musician—what she came on to the X Factor to achieve in the first place.
At the risk of bringing male counterparts into a piece that is primarily focused on a young woman being amazing: in the end, I don’t think Camila is Zayn, she’s Harry.
Here’s a video of a huge crowd of people singing her song to her and her getting overcome with happiness to brighten your day.