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On debut ‘Camila’, Cabello aims for authentic sound

Britain Stanley

Britain Stanley

Camila Cabello dropped her debut album, ‘Camila’ on Friday. Within 24 hours, the album topped the iTunes album charts in 100 countries, breaking the record for most No. 1 positions by a female artist’s debut.

Anthony Cesario, Coppell High School

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Just over a year ago, singer Camila Cabello shocked fans when her departure from girl group Fifth Harmony was announced. Nobody was sure how much success, if any, she would have going solo.

Now, however, it is hard to believe fans ever doubted Cabello: she has become the first ever female artist to surpass 40 million monthly listeners on Spotify, racked up a No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with her Young Thug collaboration “Havana” and, on Friday, released her highly-anticipated debut album “Camila.”

Though initially preceded by intended lead single “Crying in the Club”, along with follow-ups “I Have Questions” and “OMG”, Cabello took creative control of her debut album (then entitled The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving.) after the spontaneous success of “Havana”, scrapping the former three songs and reworking her album into what is now simply known as Camila.

But Camila isn’t packed with dance jams from front to back; in fact, aforementioned “Havana” — a Latin-influenced jam with a glossy piano riff — is the closest thing to a radio hit on the album.

Even the other more traditional pop songs on Camila are unique in their own right. In second single and album opener “Never Be the Same”, a drum-crashing R&B ballad with a soaring chorus, Cabello shows off her distinct falsetto over a dark layer of synths. Album closer “Into It” is Cabello at her most yearning, but past the catchy melody and crisp production, there’s an air of sadness surrounding the track.

Beyond the more radio-friendly tracks, Camila is a particularly pensive debut. Over the course of the 10-track album, the singer longs for what could have been (the nostalgic “All These Years”), struggles to form true friendships (the guitar-driven “Real Friends”) and encourages her lover to open up to her and be his true self (the smooth R&B-styled “In the Dark”).

Cabello also shows a penchant toward stripped-back, emotional piano ballads, in which lie some of her most poignant lyrics. She deals with the repercussions of a failed relationship in “Consequences” (“Secret keeping, stop the bleeding / Lost a little weight because I wasn’t eating”), and in the orchestral “Something’s Gotta Give”, she addresses a toxic relationship by asserting that “no reason to stay is a good reason to go”.

What is interesting about “Camila” is how many of the songs are surprisingly low-key. This is uncommon for a 10-song album, and even more so for a debut, which is when most artists would aim for as much widespread and mainstream appeal as possible. Yet that is part of the charm of the album: it doesn’t waste any time trying to be something it’s not. It is personal, authentic and cohesive.

That is not to say “Camila” lacks its fare share of danceable tracks. Aside from the obvious radio hits, there is the brassy, Latin-laced “She Loves Control” and the tropical, steel-drum carried “Inside Out”, both of which keep the album from being too bogged down too much by ballads and acoustic songs.

Altogether, the unique blend of songwriting, emotion and embrace of Cabello’s Cuban heritage allows “Camila” to stand out from its peers. The refusal to conform to modern trends and the obvious time spent in the album development makes it clear that Cabello has her own artistic image and is here to stay.

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