Camila Cabello stays humble to her roots despite her global outreach
Drama tends to ensue when a pop group member departs for a solo career, and since leaving Fifth Harmony in December 2016, Camila Cabello has worked tirelessly to gather her ideas and creative spirit to birth her own album.
Her debut effort, “Camila” finally came out back on Jan. 12 and it’s noticeably different from her solos in Fifth Harmony’s EP, “Better Together” (2013), and first two albums, “Reflection” (2015) and “7/27” (2016).
“Havana” was the catalyst that spearheaded Cabello’s stylistic change from adequate Sia-penned pop songs and rapper-inclusive singles for a more Latin sound that complemented her Cuban heritage.
Granted that “Havana” features rapper Young Thug, Cabello and her team ditched songs like “Crying in the Club,” “I Have Questions” and “OMG.”
“Havana” initially was just a promotional single to gain some buzz but its Latin-infused background and sensual lyrics unexpectedly exploded to become one of 2017’s biggest hits, finally topping the Billboard Hot 100 in January 2018 after 23 weeks of climbing the chart.
Her album starts with “Never Be the Same,” a drum-heavy ballad with her almost-nasal vocals which culminate in a satisfactory opener that slowly draws the listener in.
Her suddenly-high notes when she sings “Just like nicotine, heroin, morphine,” is an apt foreshadowing that her voice can reach high tides at will.
As she sings about meeting and loving someone, this begins the ongoing theme of interpersonal connection that she seeks, regardless of in the form of a friendship or relationship. This also is a facet in how Cabello’s fandom grew as her fans can empathize in that sense.
“All These Years” has Cabello reminiscing about someone from her past whom she may still have feelings for but he remains clueless: “Cause after all these years/I still feel everything when you are near/And it was just a quick ‘Hello,’ and you had to go/And you probably will never know/You’re still the one I’m after all these years.”
This bittersweet confession resonates well with listeners, especially during a section where multiple recordings of her vocals flutter simultaneously for a one-woman harmony.
“She Loves Control” is where her Cuban heritage starts kicking in, with an upbeat tempo, a seductive guitar player and steady hand-clapping throughout. Here, she lets go of her deeper emotions for a more relaxed and dance-ready entry.
Following “Havana” is “Inside Out,” one of the album’s highlights. Its infectious beat and mid-tempo feel makes it a low-key anthem that still boasts a great first impression.
It also incorporates sun-kissed drumming and tropical musical instruments for an addictive smash at the beach. Cabello’s charismatic spirit is alive in this song, and it’s a shame it’s only a hair over three minutes long.
“Consequences” takes a huge risk by slowing the album a little too much with its emotion-saturated sound but “Real Friends” gradually lights things up again, where Cabello wishes for genuine friends and not to feel alone.
The light guitar strumming augments her barely-concealed feelings, her voice never strays too high or low, rather it is nestled comfortably within her range of choice and it shows how she never needs to show off her vocal prowess.
“Something’s Gotta Give” brings up an all-too-familiar subject where she sings about wanting more equality in a relationship: “But all I do is give, and all you do is take/Something’s gotta change, but I know that it won’t.”
Her frustration with her unnamed lover can connect well with her fan base, mainly comprised of youth who are going through relationships too.
The album’s last two original tracks, “In the Dark” and “Into It” are among its strongest.
The former revolves round Cabello’s real-life encounter with a male celebrity and she wants to get to intimately know him, wanting him to metaphorically show his vulnerabilities, features of which are beyond his groomed exterior.
As she plays with the light-and-dark concept, the pop song sounds catchy, especially during the chorus where she sings about wanting him to reach out to her likewise.
The latter sees Cabello’s ravenous side emerge as the lyrics bring up how she’s into a guy and wants to do “infinite” things with him: “I’m into it/Whatever trouble that you’re thinking, I could get into it/I see a king-sized bed in the corner, we should get into it.”
Its beguiling background music is not too much of a shock when one notices that Cabello co-wrote it with acclaimed lyricist and producer, Ryan Tedder, among others.
Two more reasons why Cabello, as an artist, is succeeding in 2018 are her humility and how she uses the turbulent political landscape to connect with her fan base.
Her publicity photoshoots, social media messages and interviews often conjure up her Cuban background, and she is proud to teach listeners that it’s possible to go far while coming from very humble beginnings.
In addition, she has dedicated her music performances and her “Havana” music video to “all the dreamers,” referencing Dreamers of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
This was an immigration policy that allowed certain minors who entered the U.S. illegally to not be deported back—this was altogether rescinded by the Trump administration last fall.
One could argue that Cabello embodies the idea of the American Dream and her support for DACA, the marginalized and young fan base makes her a unique rising musician.
While she is busy expanding her career, she remains conscious of the political and sociocultural scene of late, a trait that’ll likely make her stick around through the end of the decade.
After all, her global hit, “Havana” and her album both entered at number one on their respective Billboard charts on the same week, which is clearly a sign that she has made a mark on today’s music industry.
And she intends to make more soon.