At risk of sounding like the Grade-A music snob that I am, I haven’t listened to commercial radio in a really long time – not on purpose anyway. The most recent would be before I realised I could take control of the sound system at my work and was subjected to the repetition of the Hot Hits playlist on Spotify for hours on end (with ads every three or so songs.)
It was here I first heard the breakout single “Havana” from former Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello. I’m not going to lie to you: this song blends in with every other Top 40 single sung by a young American female. So for deeper analysis and to further understand Cabello’s self-titled debut album Camila, I dived into the music video, which was a roller coaster from start to finish.
Involving a cross-dressing grandmother and the over-told story of finding a beautiful stranger seeing through your baggy shirt and oversized glasses to your perpetual beauty, the clip left me more confused about the song than when I began.
I gathered that the tune is about being so in touch with her Cuban heritage that her cultural identity comes before any man. Please interpret this yourself because I can’t explain what I don’t know.
To put it simply: this album is easy to listen to. With ten tracks averaging about three minutes each, it makes good background music you might sing along to while doing mundane household chores.
Most of the songs are upbeat and poppy, exactly what you’d expect from someone who spent five years in an industry-manufactured girl group. The defining difference between Cabello’s solo album and the music of her aforementioned band mates is the heavy Latin influence throughout.
While most of the songs feature ample vibraphone, itself a tribute to traditional Latin music, “Inside Out” sees Cabello interweave between English and Spanish lyrics. It’s a fresh taste of bi-lingual music outside of Justin Bieber’s ‘exploitative’ cover of “Despacito”.
None of the tracks on Camila are blatantly bad, but none seem to stand out any more than the last. “Real Friends” and “All These Years” try to stray away from the dance-pop sound you would here in a club by focusing on acoustics; however, the structure of the guitars and vocals in each song sound too similar to be unique from the rest of the track list.
I can appreciate the heartfelt story behind “Consequences” and the simplicity of Cabello’s voice over a piano, a song that Pitchfork described as Cabello’s attempt to recreate a sad, slow song like Rihanna’s “Stay”. Despite this, the blatant editing of her otherwise sweet voice detracts from the emotion and musicality, missing the mark that Rihanna hit with her rawer sound.
“Something’s Gotta Give” is also pretty simple and emotional, and I could have appreciated the lyrics until the second verse copied the exact words from Taylor Swift’s iconic “The Story of Us”; this was an anthem when I was a heartbroken 14-year-old and before T-Swift’s musical identity crisis. It would be enjoyably ironic to see Taylor Swift claim copyright over stolen song lyrics.
The final song on the album, “Into It” sounds like a Zayn Malik song sung by Carly-Rae Jepsen, but it is probably the most catchy on the whole of Camila – probably because it repeats the words “into it” so many times you can’t possibly forget the words.
Overall, the entire album sounds like it was written by the same people behind Zayn Malik’s debut album Mind of Mine. Is there a formula used to write albums for disgruntled former members of a power-groups created by Simon Cowell? There’s a whole new Illuminati conspiracy.
Camila is good enough that I will dance to it when an amateur DJ no doubt remixes one of the tracks and plays it at my local, but not so good that I would save it to my Spotify downloads so I can listen to it whenever I want. Therefore, Camila gets 2.3 bitter band members out of 5.