When Camila Cabello announced this debut album in May, she named it ‘The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving’. Cabello, who’d quit US girlband Fifth Harmony the previous December, said her solo record would tell “the story of my journey from darkness into light, from a time when I was lost to a time when I found myself again”. But a few months later, a Latin-influenced pop tune she’d cautiously released as a “promotional single” became an unexpected smash: ‘Havana’ eventually spent five weeks at Number One before finally being toppled by Ed Sheeran. Perhaps in response to its success, Cabello’s album now arrives later than originally planned, with a less melodramatic title: ‘Camila’.
Though there’s no obvious “darkness into light” storyline, ‘Camila’ definitely has edgier moments than the romantic ‘Havana’, which was named after the Cuban city where she was born. “You’re good at making me feel small,” she sings on ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, a strikingly direct break-up song. Stripped-down piano ballad ‘Consequences’ feels even more candid: she tells a former partner that “loving you was dumb and dark and cheap,” and says she “lost a little weight because I wasn’t eating”. It’s a long way from her biggest Fifth Harmony hit, ‘Work From Home’, which was basically about bunking off early to get laid.
It must have been tempting for Cabello and producers including Kanye West collaborator Frank Dukes to try emulating ‘Havana’ a little too closely, but they use trendy Latin and Caribbean sounds sparingly. ‘She Loves Control’ has Spanish guitars and sleek reggaeton beats, while ‘Inside Out’ features steel drums and a mention of Cabello’s upbringing in “the south side of Miami”. Elsewhere, Cabello tries everything from Ed Sheeran-style acoustic pop on ‘All These Years’ and ‘Real Friends’ to bombastic electro on ‘Never Be The Same’. Bizarrely, the latter appears here twice, the second time in a marginally different ‘single edit’.
In fact, Cabello only fails to pull off ‘In The Dark’, a bland hybrid of recent Kesha and Lana Del Rey hits. But it’s not enough to spoil a strong and surprisingly confident first impression.