I love a good “End of the Year” list. Looking back at all the great music in a year and revisiting things I might have missed is wonderful (You can read my list for 2017 here). That being said, I might love lists at the beginning of a year previewing what’s in store even more. The anticipation reading through all of the new albums coming our way is unlike any other feeling. If you’re familiar with my writing, you know I’m a big pop music fan. If you combine these two facts about me, it would come as no surprise that Camila Cabello‘s self-titled debut solo album was high on my list of projects I was eager to hear this year. The former Fifth Harmony member spent the back half of 2017 putting out great singles, and I was fully sold. The anticipation was much rewarded, as Camila is a stellar album to kick off Cabello’s solo career.
Every pop album needs a good ballad or two, and Camila starts with a great one in the form of “Never The Same.” There’s a satisfying percussive weight to the music here that gives the airier pop stylings and Cabello’s upper register a little more kick. In delivery, Cabello perfectly captures the wonderfully intoxicating kind of infatuation we all go through. The fact that the melody here is quite high could be a detriment to a singer that tries to force the matter too much, but Cabello nails all the notes without a hint of strain.
Camila‘s other pre-release singles are as different from each other as they are good. The big one is “Havana,” and in many ways it’s the highlight of the album. Cabello’s effortless, confident coolness, the incredibly smooth piano hook, and those horns all combine to make this the jam on Camila. Young Thug turns in a great verse as the only guest on Camila that fits snuggly into the middle of the song.
“Real Friends” goes the entirely opposite direction, a deeply personal song about the struggle in finding true friends while navigating Hollywood and fame. It’s heartfelt, genuine, and the choice to use only guitar for the music gives the listener that feeling you get hanging out with friends in a living room while playing music. Cabello connects with an insecurity we all have about making friends while sounding like she’s our best friend herself.
The singles highlight one of the biggest strengths of Camila: the range of sounds, subject matters, and writing Cabello fits into a mere ten songs. “She Loves Control” serves as a stirring self-empowerment anthem, and it alongside “Inside Out” share a ton of influence from the Latin American music of Cabello’s heritage. “Consequences” is everything you could want out of a heartbroken piano ballad. Cabello takes many of the archetypes of pop and creates shining examples of them while still infusing her own personality and ideas into them.
The writing on Camila is solid on the whole, but there are inconsistencies that do slightly detract from the experience. The album ends on “Into You,” the weakest offering of the bunch due in large part to the writing. “I see a king size bed in the corner, we should get into it” is some corny pop writing that semi-works in context even if it’s not the greatest. “I’m sick on you, but you’re the medicine too” is corny pop writing that does not work at all. “Into It” contains more of the latter than the former and suffers for it. The ten song length is perfect for Camila, showcasing Cabello’s solo talents while not overstaying its welcome. However, the length also means that a weak song stands out more, especially when it’s the last one. This by no means is indicative of the writing quality of the first nine songs, which are largely good to great.
A debut solo album signifies the promise of a bright, new career. With Camila, Camila Cabello delivers on that promise to deliver a fun, musically exciting pop album that contains a little bit of something for everyone. Even with a few writing missteps, Cabello’s talent is undeniable, and she clearly has a knack for pop music. Expect to see Cabello’s work on many year-end and most anticipated lists for years to come.