Review Summary: It's clearly having a lot of fun... and so am I.
To put it bluntly, Camila Cabello and I got off to a bad start. While I was largely indifferent to much of her work with girl group Fifth Harmony, my first proper introduction to her singing was as the guest vocalist to Machine Gun Kelly’s atrocious single “Bad Things,” which spread through radio stations and social media like wildfire. It was quite possibly the worst track on MGK’s inconsistent Bloom
record, as it caused a severe tonal imbalance on his album with its glossy production and cheesy chorus. With that said, however, I’m happy to say that Cabello’s solo debut Camila
is a much stronger display of her talents. Why" Because of its contrasts. Contrary to Fifth Harmony’s bombastic and showy R&B-flavored pop, Camila
pares things down on an instrumental level to give Cabello more room to soar vocally. The production isn’t needlessly artificial, opting for a more stripped-down campfire atmosphere for the ballads and an organic - as well as heavily percussive - vibe for the uptempo Latin-influenced numbers. The best word I can use for the album is casual
; the entire record plays out like the musical version of a deeply satisfying comfort food. It may not be the most artistically fulfilling work, but it has a relaxing familiarity and sense of fun that makes it worth a listen anyway.
Delving deeper, the eleven tracks Camila Cabello brings us range from soft and sensual balladry to sparsely arranged Latin bangers, both of which often exploit the record’s biggest strength: combining tasteful, well-written instrumental passages with just the right minimalism to let Cabello shine. There are some pretty interesting surprises here too; just listen to that fantastic Spanish guitar strumming that glazes over the top of “She Loves Control,” for instance! Speaking of guitar, the reverb-laden electric guitar that backs “All These Years” is a beautiful base for one of the most emotive and sentimental ballads on the album. The track is one of several (along with “Consequences,” “Something’s Gotta Give,” and “Real Friends”) that happen to feature little to no percussion, which is a pretty ballsy move for an album of its style. In fact, in “Real Friends,” the little slaps on the guitar actually serve as the only percussion the song has. As far as vocals go, Cabello is at her absolute best. Whether she’s giving some sultry lower-register whispers or her flashy higher-register melisma, she’s clearly the necessary focus of the album. In fact, in a few songs - especially “She Loves Control” - she gives off a bit of a smoky rasp in her high voice that lends some Janis Joplin or Ninet Tayeb-esque grit to the her clean tone. Really, the only reason I can’t recommend Camila
any more than I do is because I feel as though Camila Cabello’s work hasn’t quite hit its full potential in terms of songwriting. As refreshing as the laid-back nature of the album is, it might have benefited from another uptempo banger or two, maybe a few more in the Latin pop format that she was using so well. A little extra musical diversity would be welcome in the future in general, if only to hear how Cabello’s voice blends with other styles. As it is, Camila
is a really solid launchpad for a budding new solo talent. Hell, it’s way better than I expected it to be. There was clearly a lot of effort put into it, and I suggest you hear that effort the next time you check out some light, fun pop jams.