Album of the Week: Camila Cabello's 'Camila'

This time last year, Camila Cabello’s fans were reeling over the then-19-year-old singer’s departure from Fifth Harmony just one month prior. Now, she's in a much different place: Cabello has a No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 (“Havana”), a tour with Bruno Mars in the books, and more than 42 million monthly Spotify listeners on her own. But perhaps most important, one year after all that drama Cabello is releasing her debut solo effort and reinforcing her already declared independence.

Entitled simply Camila, the album itself went on a journey from announcement to release day. The title’s transformation from The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving to just Camila indicates that some serious maturation happened in the creative process; also, the track list consists of just three previously released songs. Despite the feisty “Crying in the Club” serving as Cabello’s official entrance to solo stardom -- and the poignant “I Have Questions” and the sexy “OMG” following that up -- fans won’t find any of those songs on Camila. Whether that move was strategic or more of a fluke, it allows fans to see even more of Cabello’s artistry on the 11-track LP.

Starting off with the newly familiar, falsetto-laced “Never Be the Same,” the album sees Cabello experimenting with a mix of sounds and lyrical concepts -- and most interestingly, all considerably different from the vibe of “Havana.” Surrounding the spicy Latin-flavored smash are balladic pieces of heartbreak (“Something’s Gotta Give”) and, concurrently, more upbeat jams that are a little more insightful (“In The Dark” and “All These Years”). Yet, Cabello’s Latin influence is still felt throughout the entire record, whether it be on the sassy salsa feel of “She Loves Control” or in lyrics like “Grew up in south of Miami/ That’s where I was when you found me” (“Inside Out”).

And while it’ll be hard for Cabello to top herself after the runaway success of “Havana,” there’s plenty of tracks on Camila that are as appealing in their own right. The lyrically sensual “Into It” brings the same kind of sexiness as her hit single, and the piano and steel drum-tinged “Inside Out” serves up a bouncy melody that makes busting a move a foregone conclusion.

However radio-friendly the nine other Camila tracks may be, something that should certainly be recognized is Cabello’s relentless vulnerability as she sings about the woes of both romantic and friendly relationships. The acoustic “Real Friends” cuts to the core (“Every time I let somebody in/ Then I find out what they're all about”), and tender ballad “Consequences” is just about as raw as they come, with Cabello admitting all she's given up for the sake of a lover (“Loving you was sunshine/ But then it poured/ And I was so much more than my senses”).

The spectrum of emotions and sounds on Camila is commendable -- and whether the album earns Cabello another massive hit, the 20-year-old can rest assured that she’s created a piece of work that’s a dynamic solo career launch pad. As a girl who got her start as one of five, Cabello has vocally, lyrically and impressively established that she was always meant to be simply Camila.