Camila Cabello's Solo Debut: What We Do (And Don't) Want to Hear

 Terence Patrick/CBS via Getty Images
Camila Cabello performs on The Late Late Show with James Corden on Dec. 1, 2016.

The wounds of Camila Cabello’s departure from Fifth Harmony are still fresh. Unlike other pop band crises of late -- Zayn Malik’s leaving One Direction comes to mind -- the exit was messy and fans are still a little unsure of what actually happened. She’s got a solo career on the way, and if the pop-music gods smile down, both she and her ex-bandmates will find mutual peace in their respective successes.

The story goes like this: On Dec. 19, Fifth Harmony posted a note on its official Twitter account announcing Cabello’s decision to leave the group. It seemed fair enough: The group mentioned that it would continue on without Camila, that they were appreciative of Harmonizers’ continued support and that they were looking forward to the future. What we didn’t see behind the scenes -- immediately at least -- was that the news was brought to light without Cabello knowing it was coming. She responded with her own note, asserting she never meant to quit 5H the way she did and that the claim that she did so only through her reps was untrue. (You can read the entire note on Instagram.) If that weren’t enough, the next day, Fifth Harmony released another statement denying Cabello’s assertion that conversations between her team and 5H’s took place, and that they’re just as confused as everyone else. This is what we call messy.

As devastating as Camila’s departure was for fans, it wasn’t totally unexpected. In many ways, Cabello has been the odd woman out in the quintet. There were signs -- all the way back to the X Factor days, when judge Demi Lovato once gave the girls pointed criticism. She said, “Right now, there’s only one person doing it for me,” gesturing to Cabello. “I think you guys should all learn something from her.” Yikes.

Fast-forward to September 2016 and Fifth Harmony is on the cover of Latina magazine, telling the publication, “We'd be lying if we all said this is a picture-perfect thing. Like we all completely agreed on the album track list and what the sound and the music-video treatment would be like, which usually happens in bands who grew up together. But for manufactured bands, it's harder.” Two months later, she released her debut solo single, the Shawn Mendes duet “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” It sparked controversy over a potential Fifth Harmony breakup, to which Cabello told Entertainment Tonight in December 2015, “Obviously any band, any group, someday is not going to be together anymore. That's the truth. [Everybody] kind of knows it, whether you say it or not. We're working on new music for you guys right now -- just be happy!" Indeed, signs of a split were evident.

So now the question becomes: What will a Camila Cabello solo career look like? And more importantly, what do her fans want it to look like? In Fifth Harmony, Cabello was written into a group -- hitting notes that reflected her playful persona. While we’re confident she’ll take that energy to the next step of her career, it’s her past solo endeavors we should look to for future guidance, of which she has two: “I Know What You Did Last Summer” and the more recent “Bad Things” with bad boy rapper/actor Machine Gun Kelly. Let’s break it down:

“I Know What You Did Last Summer” (2015)

The story behind the Shawn Mendes collaboration is kind of an adorable. The pair met backstage at one of Taylor Swift’s 1989 tour stops and wrote the song together. What’s important to note about this is that Fifth Harmony doesn’t typically write its own songs; the solo venture must’ve been a fun exercise for Cabello. The song is definitely more in line with the kind of stuff Mendes is known for -- energetic-yet-somber relationship pop -- but proves that solo Camila can go above and beyond the limitations of the girl-group structure.

“Bad Things” (2016)

Fifth Harmony are no strangers to teaming with rappers (see “Work from Home” featuring Ty Dolla $ign), so Camila is equally well-versed in the modern pop move. On “Bad Things,” the 5H lady sings a massively sexy hook as MGK delivers sentimentally naughty lines. It’s a love song gone a little crazy -- the sort of obsession that lust inspires. Compared to “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” “Bad Things” is more in line with what Fifth Harmony has done, perhaps without its 2016 R&B flair.

So what does this tell us? Not a whole heck of a lot -- just that solo Camila Cabello typically opts for pop music that melds genres somewhat differently from the way Fifth Harmony used to do it. It tells us that Cabello can easily stand on her two feet (both solo songs broke the Hot 100 when they debuted, after all). It tells us that Cabello wants to experiment more with male voices (who do we have to pay for a Chainsmokers collaboration?).

Collaborating with pop’s biggest forces would benefit Camila. If she were to bring the girl-power message of Fifth Harmony and introduce it in a giant dance track similar to what Halsey did with “Closer,” she’d find herself appealing to a new sector of mainstream fandom. Her days as a teen queen (and those who loved her reign) would remain, but she’d also usher in a new, mature era. Fifth Harmony have been popular with dance remixes in the past too -- if Cabello teamed up with someone like Martin Garrix or Zedd, we wager a radio banger would be born, and quickly. Cabello has shown that she’s unafraid of experimentation, so why not release a strong solo LP that spans genre and influence?

Truly, there’s no limit to where she can go -- let’s just hope the rest of the Fifth Harmony clan will forgive her, and that Cabello feels the confidence to start writing her own songs, too. One thing is for certain: If she writes a song dissing her 5H days, she’s going to have a lot to prove. As long as she keeps things positive and fun, we’ll keep coming back for more. If we take another look at the One Direction model, we can make the assumption that all her fans want is for her to be happy and they’ll follow her in whatever direction she so chooses to pursue. Speaking of 1D, how about a Niall/Camila love song?

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