Camila Cabello’s rather bitter departure from Fifth Harmony in 2016 was met with much confusion and derision among fans.
After all, at the time, the US X-Factor runner-up outfit had been tipped to bring the golden era of girls groups back into the Western pop music market.
And to be perfectly honest, Cabello’s then solo repertoire (the most notable being I Know What You Did Last Summer, a rather vanilla duet with Shawn Mendes) wasn’t exactly career-making stuff.
Then, along came Havana, featuring Young Thug, which became a huge smash hit. The conversation since then has shifted from “Camila the ex-Fifth Harmony member” to “Camila the popstar”.
In a way, the eponymous title of this 11-track debut album serves to strengthen the later statement.
Originally titled The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving, Camila is a record that seeks to establish the 20-year-old as a solo artist. It’s one heck of a pop gem that doesn’t dilute its talent’s voice despite the obviously manufactured production.
Immaculately polished yet personal, it’s the kind of record that sets all the right foundations for a young soloist.
Cabello’s artistry is not lost as evident on the Latin-flavoured Havana and She Loves Control that tap into her Cuban roots.
Slick opener Never Be the Same shapes up to a shimmering pop confection with tight rhymes and an earworm chorus. Elsewhere, Inside Out banks on mainstream radio’s obsession with tropical-tinged songs.
But it’s on the second half of the record that Cabello steps away from the sexy pop siren template and delivers something far more vulnerable.
The tender Consequences conjures up an image of a downtrodden girl-next-door. Meanwhile, introspective lyrics on tracks such as Real Friends and Something’s Gotta Give inject plenty of personality into the album.
With Camila, Cabello is letting her music define her instead of the headlines – and it’s a pretty darn good introduction.