Camila Cabello was met with mixed responses when she announced via social media that she would be leaving girl-group Fifth Harmony last December. That same year, the group, which was formed on “The X-Factor” back in 2012, solidified their spot as the biggest girl band in the United States when their single “Work From Home” peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Fans and critics alike couldn’t seem to understand Cabello’s decision. Why would she willingly abandon the group at such a vital point in their career?
Cabello, in short, was always “the voice,” of Fifth Harmony. “The X Factor” judge Demi Lovato commented that there was “only one person doing it” for her, and when uncomfortably prodded by host Khloe Kardashian (2012 was weird) to reveal who that one was, she pointed directly at Camila and proclaimed “you!” Lovato’s statement, despite being made in the very early stages of the groups career, remained true right up to the end. On every song recorded by Fifth Harmony, one voice consistently shone through, and that voice belonged to Cabello.
This, presumably, was the reason why Cabello was the only member of the group to venture into solo projects whilst together as a fivesome. In 2015, Cabello recorded “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” an upbeat pop duet that proved Cabello had the potential to carry a record without the safety of Fifth Harmony backing her. This was proven again the following year, when Cabello lended her vocals to Machine Gun Kelly’s “Bad Things,” which tied Fifth Harmony’s Billboard Hot 100 record, peaking at No. 4.
After a nasty back and forth over social media, with the band claiming they were informed “via her representatives” of her decision to leave, Cabello wasted no time in starting her solo career. In May of the following year, she announced her debut solo single “Crying In The Club” which was set to be the first song off her debut solo album, then titled The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving. The song, along with “I Have Questions,” which was released around the same time, had a common theme: heartbreak. Both songs received mixed critical reviews, and neither left a lasting impact on the charts.
Before Cabello could begin to question her own decision, she found major success with Latin-pop hit “Havana,” released September of last year. The song, which at face value chronicles a dangerous relationship, is also a nod to Cabello’s home country of Cuba (“Half of my heart is in Havana”). While the song’s performance could arguably be due to the previous success of Latin-influenced music (“Despacito” spent 16 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100 over the summer), there is no denying that it did it’s job in establishing Cabello as a solo artist.
After the unexpected success of Havana, Cabello announced that she would be changing the name of her debut album to simply Camila. In the months leading up to the album’s release, Cabello spoke about her departure from Fifth Harmony in numerous interviews, often mentioning that her biggest problem with being in the group was her inability to write songs and have a say in the creative process of their music. With Camila, Cabello finally got the opportunity to showcase not only her vocal talent, but also her impeccable song-writing skills. This is the most evident on “All These Years,” the most singer-songwriter reminiscent track on the album. The song starts with a single electric-guitar note, followed immediately by Cabello’s haunting vocals. Production wise, it’s astounding. A highlight of not just the song, but the entire album, comes when the track seemingly ends, only to pick back up with a melodious outro. While this simple gesture doesn’t seem that revolutionary, it’s nevertheless impressive coming from a debut album.
Camila, sonically, is unlike anything she ever released during her time with Fifth Harmony. While the group’s music was often upbeat, with a strong bass and loud instruments occasionally overshadowing vocal performance, Cabello slows things down for much of her solo debut. “Consequences,” the most emotionally charged track on the album, is a heart-wrenching piano ballad which finds Cabello in her most vulnerable state as she sings about a damaging relationship. Unlike many artists of today, Cabello doesn’t shy away from the dark truth, with lines like “Lost a little weight because I wasn’t eating” and “Glasses on the sink/they didn’t fix you.”
Relationships, whether they be good or bad, are a common theme throughout the album. On “Never Be The Same,” another ballad, but with more pop-rock influences, Cabello manages to compare her relationship to various drugs in a poetic way, which is an achievement on it’s own. “Something’s Gotta Give,” which assumes the role of “Consequences” less-dramatic twin sister, can be likened to not only a romantic relationship, but also Cabello’s relationship with her formed band (“Something’s gotta change, but I know that it won’t / No reason to stay is a good reason to go”).
The album borrows some thematic elements from Cabello’s previous work, however, much-like the music of Fifth Harmony, Camila is all about female empowerment. “She Loves Control” is another latin-influenced track all about a mysterious “she” who, in short, loves control. Cabello also encourages female empowerment by following the likes of artists such as Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus and embracing her sexuality on “Into It,” the album’s closer. The most radio-friendly song on the album, “Into It’s” slow build-up to it’s pop-banger chorus already has pop fans welcoming Cabello into the genre with open-arms.
Camila is Cabello’s glaring answer to the aforementioned question. Despite being her debut, it seems that Cabello has already found her voice as a solo artist in the industry, and it’s a voice that shows great potential for a successful future.