Album Review: "CAMILA" by Camila CabelloWonkeyDude98 Mini-Description: In my thirty-fourth album review, I talk about Camila Cabello's extremely stacked debut solo album -- and realize that it doesn't work.
Best Songs: "Havana" ft. Young Thug, "Something's Gotta Give", "Consequences"
Worst Song: "Never Be The Same"
While most people have a profound love or burning hatred for Camila Cabello, my feelings are much more complicated. When she was in the tragically mishandled Simon Cowell supergroup Fifth Harmony I could not stand her. While the other members at least had some sense of maturity and control in their voice, I would imagine that Camila's sixth grade chorus teacher was ashamed to the point where the cringe inspired hospitalization. She was a squeaky-voiced constant annoyance who could not hold a note and always stuck to a soprano range (closest thing I believe a female vocalist can get to what is a falsetto male singers) that was so painful that I swear without her the first two Fifth Harmony albums would be like a point or two higher immediately.
And then she started doing collaborations behind the group's backs with Shawn Mendes and Machine Gun Kelly -- of which are respectively way better without her and (if you saw my worst hit songs of 2017 list you would know) GODAWFUL IN EVERY SENSE OF THE WORD -- right after partaking with the group in my 2nd worst hit song of 2016, "Work From Home". This shadiness is arguably part of the reason Camila left the group, which I was ecstatic about and hoped to god that it meant Fifth Harmony would establish some sort of listenable, mature sound -- but from what I heard, that did not happen.
But then 2017 rolled around. Apart from the aforementioned catastrophe that is "Bad Things", Camila started doing weird things with her career. First off, she released the weird slightly off-kilter lead single "Crying in the Club", a song I ultimately found forgettable and mediocre, not remembering it existed until the day I started writing this.
And then "I Have Questions" happened. My jaw just dropped, I could not even imagine a singer as repugnant as Camila Cabello making a song that was near in contending for my best song of 2017, PERIOD. Bear in mind, her competition is Kesha, Kendrick Lamar, The Mountain Goats, Lorde, Temples, Run the Jewels, and the best song of Thomas Rhett's career and apart from the third name on that list, she topped all of that! But what interested me far more was if she could sustain that level of quality. And while "OMG" was a clunky trend-hopping headache of a song, "Havana" was what really drew me in to Camila Cabello. Seriously, I neglected talking about that song on my best hit songs of 2017 list JUST so I could praise it more this year!
But then I came off my Havana high, listened to her awful followup "Never Be The Same", and then her career got even weirder. Her debut album was delayed, renamed, and tracks were cut, including "Crying in the Club", "OMG", and, sadly, "I Have Questions". That last one made me really uneasy about this album, as given the inconsistent single quality otherwise gave me uncertainty that she'd be capable of matching it even with "Havana" on the album. So enough dillydallying, did Camila Cabello manage to deliver something that worked?
No. No she didn't. I didn't really expect this to be great (though I would have if not for THAT SONG BEING CUT WHY), but I at least expected her to make something that would hold up as a decent pop album, and CAMILA just doesn't. It's a record label trying to hobble together a hyped-up album for a star that's in a mid-point in her career one way or another -- in other words, it's 2018's very own Starboy by The Weeknd, except somehow this holds up EVEN LESS.
But before we get into why this album is not good by any stretch of the imagination, let's go over all of the few things that actually worked here. "Havana" remains the best song on the album by a mile: the slick exotic piano line against the bass-heavy beat and fantastic horns, coupled with Young Thug's genuinely solid cadence on his verse, a monster of a hook, and Camila stressing her amazing lower register make for a god-tier pop song with an enchanting vintage vibe. And on top of that, the ballads "Consequences" and "Something's Gotta Give", although neither are really complicated songs, they do still hold some emotional weight, at least for me.
But that's where my praise stops because on the topic of "Consequences", the production on this album is one of the most slapdashed disasters I've heard in some time. You'd think after such a potent, musically adventurous lead single that there would at least be some level of pop experimentation or even a sense of personality, but that never happens. We instead get songs like "All These Years", which despite a decent melody is ruined by the choppy acoustic guitar line that drops entirely for half of the whole song, same going for "Real Friends" even though I mostly kinda like that song. They're emblematic of my issues with the whole album's sound: this is weak. There's no significant low end on any of these songs, and the groove is either half-formed like on the popping chintzy reggaeton of "She Loves Control", the marimba on "Inside Out", and the glitchy fuzz of "Into It", or almost nonexistent like in that "Crying in the Club" wannabe dance-trap "In the Dark" without the bombast or payoff to make it compelling. And even if this album gets close to a stride occasionally, there's no strong melodic foundation.
Speaking of which, Camila's arguably the worst part of her own album. What made "Havana" such a compelling song was how it took advantage of her embarrassingly limited range through a full mix and a track loaded with harmonies and multitracking. I wish the rest of the album did the same, as the barebones if even existent vocal production and lack of mix depth mean that Camila Cabello has to chug through obnoxious high notes and constantly changing emotions that she isn't adequate to handle. The worst example of this is "Never Be The Same", which has a prechorus so agonizingly atrocious that it ruins the rest of the song, despite being mostly inoffensive (although this is literally the most adlib-type "your love is my drug" song I've ever heard) and having a decent chorus. But really the issue persists universally on this album. Her voice constantly fizzles out and she can barely make it through segments like the prechoruses of "In the Dark" and "Into It", and the latter song exacerbates another issue I have with her: not only is she barely even justifiably amateur at singing, how is it that I can't buy Camila, (sadly) one of the hottest popstars to come out in recent years, as someone who has sex, at all? I can barely give her credit on the more melancholy and adolescent songs like "All These Years" a song about meeting an old flame that has all the emotional intensity of watching paint dry, or "Consequences", a song about a relationship having very real negative effects on her life despite the representative complete lack of any deeper metaphors or figures of speech at all that could make it sound professional... I want to give Camila some credit here, but forget lyrical analysis, how can I analyze an album (let alone this amazingly basic) if I can't buy the smorgasbord of emotions on display?
I really wanted to like this, you don't even have an idea. "Havana", again, is an amazing pop song that's getting the airplay it deserves, but coming from someone expecting a savior in this hellish age of pop music... I'm inclined to be generous thanks to a few good songs, so very light 5/10 and no real recommendation to people that it would matter to. You can only make one debut album, and sadly Void's queen missed the mark on this big time. I guess that's what happens when you cut one of the best songs of the 2010s. This is WonkeyDude98, and it remains that cupcakKe > Camila.
CupcakKe review soon? - ProPanda
We can only see... - WonkeyDude98
She's so sweet. - Skullkid755
Cupcakke greater than Camila? Lol, don’t even joke like that.
I definitely agree with you on Never Be The Same and Camila's horrific vocal performance. I don’t hate it as much as you do, but that song is pretty painful to get through. Makes me long for the vocals on Work From Home and Bad Things.
It does suck that "I Have Questions" didn’t make it though because that song is so goood. It’s like the "My Heart Is Broken" of Camila's. I don’t think it’s exclusion will prevent my potential enjoyment of the album though. - DCfnaf
CupcaKKe is talented, but Camila is WAAAYYY better. - CamilaHavana
Tell me at least YOU liked the album - CamilaHavana
The awkward moment when you are Camila's one stan on the site and you are reading this 😂😂 - CamilaHavana