I’ve never been a fan of Fifth Harmony, and I didn’t know very much about Camila Cabello until recently, but you know what? I love this album.

Because I don’t like Fifth Harmony (multiple reasons for that – I found their live TV performances to be a bit much and a lot of their songs to be really anti-feminist, which bothers me a bit), I wasn’t really all that intrigued when Camila Cabello left the group to pursue a solo career. Okay, good for you, best of luck, whatever. It didn’t phase me. I also wasn’t blown away by her debut solo single, “Crying in the Club,” and wasn’t sure if I was a fan of her voice or not. “Havana” didn’t phase me much either when it came out last summer, but I thought it was a bit catchier and unique than “Crying in the Club” which, after listening to it several more times since Camila came out, is so obvious that Sia wrote and worked on the song that not only does it sound like a Sia song, but if you listen carefully, it almost sounds like Sia is the one singing at certain points… SUSPICIOUS.

Initially, Cabello’s debut solo album was to be titled The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving. with “Crying in the Club” as its lead single, but following the large success of “Havana” on the charts, the album’s original release was delayed and several songs that Cabello had worked with Sia, Ed Sheeran and Charli XCX on were scrapped, “Crying” included. Word on the street is that while “Crying” performed modestly on the charts and some critics were impressed, others thought it was pretty generic material for what was to be Cabello’s debut solo album, which isn’t exactly the best thing to hear when you’re working on a debut (and they pretty much hit the nail on the head – “Crying in the Club,” while catchy, is pretty generic and a little too reminiscent of the sound of popular Sia singles such as “Never Give Up” or “Cheap Thrills”). As a result, work on Cabello’s album continued until November 2017 when she confirmed that they had finished recording and her debut solo album, now titled Camila with “Havana” as the lead single, would be released in January. A few songs were released ahead of the album as promotional singles, including “Never Be the Same.”

In any event, I was interested in giving Camila a listen. I didn’t listen to Fifth Harmony enough to know if her solo music would be any different, but I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. “Never Be the Same” is probably my favorite song… The entire album is just GOOD pop music so, honestly, check your baggage because this flight is full. A few people seemed to be disappointed and were looking forward to an album more like “Crying in the Club,” but that album was scrapped and I’m glad it was. With some Latin influences for the Cuban-American Cabello, it works really well. It’s also interesting to listen to Cabello’s solo work because, even though I’m not a Fifth Harmony fan, a lot of passive-agressive diva-ish comments seemed to be passed around in the media last year between Cabello and her former bandmates, mostly with Cabello taking shots at how she didn’t think there was any balance while recording with them or didn’t like what they said about her in interviews. I was the first to roll my eyes and say tell it to the hand, Regina George (“Can I just say we don’t have a clique problem at this school, and that some of us shouldn’t have to take this workshop, because some of us are just victims in the situation?”) but since listening to Cabello’s solo music, it seems to me that she perhaps would have been better off with a solo career right away: after all, Fifth Harmony formed while they were all contestants on the second season of the American X Factor in 2012, so there might have never been a chance for Cabello to prove herself as a solo artist until now, and I’m intrigued to see where she’ll go from here. I believe “Real Friends” captures this essence the most.

A recurring complaint among other listeners seemed to be that it’s a good album but too short (only 10 songs with a radio edit of “Never Be the Same” as a bonus track), and to that I will say quality over quantity. Camila is also her debut studio album, after all. Cabello might have proved herself talented enough for pop music while part of Fifth Harmony, but she will still have to work her way up to a longer album as a solo artist in my opinion. But rest assured – her debut is very good. One critic commented that they disliked the use of auto-tune on the album because Cabello has proven herself talented during live television appearances… To that I say read my think-piece about the use of auto-tune in pop music here.

Often times, if I like an artist or an album enough, all of the songs will start to grow on me, and that’s what happened with Camila. I wasn’t huge on “Havana” until the album came out, and now I love it. I also love how it’s become heavy in radio play since the album’s release and it’s now THAT song that middle-aged moms like to complain about when it comes on because “it’s so annoying!” or “mumbling and repeating ‘ooh nah nah’ isn’t really singing!” (I may be quoting my actual mother on one of those). It is singing though, and it has that Latin vibe which gives her music a little bit of an authentic edge, but any song will become THAT song if it’s overplayed enough so let them complain. Cabello is talented, Camila is a good album, and that’s all there is to say about that.

Jeffrey’s favorite tracks from Camila: “Never Be the Same”, “Into It”, “Havana” and “Real Friends”

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