When we thought that nothing can ever be as consuming as her first album “Camila”, we got Romance. Living up to its meaning, the sophomore record from Camila Cabello bleeds drama as it explores the emotion of love in all its glory while at the same time, pondering over the lack of it. Much like her last album that helped define the year, the potency of the intensity that her new album bears, goes beyond the record. Romance might become one of the defining music moments of the decade.
When talking about her new album, Camila stated “I’ve never lived as much life as I did writing this album. It was messy and beautiful, unforgettable and at times so painful I wish I could forget, it was excruciatingly consuming and impossible not to get lost in.”
Camila’s album defies restraint, a factor, if treated in isolation might not bear much significance. But considering the general rhetoric that goes against women who had in past been deemed hysteric for talking about the positives and negatives that love can bring, the artist’s work is important. Her unabashed declaration is an answer to the people who have time and again, invalidated a woman’s observation, just on the pretext of her gender.
The album is bound by its sonic range as it transitions from playful banter and drama to the mellow sound. There is a temperature in the record and it seems to calm down towards the end, as the artist recognizes that love is an adventure and no matter, whatever happens, her first love will always wait for her at home.
In this review, we will take you through the tracks of the album and highlight the ones that stood out the most to us.
“Shameless” and “Liar”
Released on 5th September 2019, both ‘Shameless’ and ‘Liar’, are different in terms of tonality and composition but similar in their theme. But at the same time, they share two very different aspects of the same story. As the act of speaking up becomes central to her being and the existence of this album, Camila Cabello shares the envy that yearning can bring and the impact a wrong move can have on one’s life. While Shameless talks about the physical manifestation of love, inviting people to be courageous in their confession, Liar acts as a continuation of the theme and tells listeners about the repercussions, when one does not speak up.
Shameless talks about the need for nakedness in emotions. Enamoured by the idea of making a mark on someone’s being, like a painter covering a blank canvas, Camila has earlier shared her fascination with the idea of lovemaking and its transcendent nature. The same fascination comes out in the ever-consuming sound of the single, complemented by the ambience set in the music video. In our earlier review of Liar, we shared,
“With a direction that would make one immediately recall Salvador Dali, we see the singer stuck in a perpetual nightmare loop, as she explores relationships with her lovers in the video. Trying to escape cheating, a giant elephant and cycle riders, Camila is shown losing the control of her life. The exaggeration in terms of presentation hints towards “ridicule” of how the female protagonist perceives her condition and the impact it has on her life. But as Camila starts to speak up, her pain recedes and she is back in her bed and in her reality. Liar is a brilliant re-telling of traditional fairy tales. Instead of a prince, the princess takes ownership, saves herself and finds her own lover.”
“Shameless” is dance-heavy track, while “Liar” takes us back to Camila’s foundational sound. Both the songs display the cinematic fervour of the singer and prepare us for the story that will be unfolded in the later songs.
Nothing short of a fairy tale, Living Proof is the dreamiest track ever produced. The song starts with the recording sampled through the Africa Heartwood Project, which aids orphan kids in Liberia. Camila, who has been the supporter and contributor to the project, said on her website that she wanted to bring the attention to this mission and hence, used the joyful singing of the kids in her album.
In this celebratory single, Camila requests her lover to open up. In her last album, she talked about the reluctance in “In the Dark” but this time, her request is more pressing. Helping herself and her lover explore the different hues of love, she is trying to create a safe space for both of them. The single is poetic both lyrically and visually. The singer’s performance at the AMAs just served as another reminder of the conceptual power that her team possesses. Musically, “Living Proof” balances the album as it neither leans towards drama nor towards melancholy, falling somewhere in the middle of the sonic spectrum.
“Should’ve Said It” and “Felt It Twice”
Recalling a failed relationship that began two years ago, Camila takes a turn at her ex-lover as she tells that she has found someone else. The song carries the tone of reprimand and uses the cheek-in-tongue humour to ridicule the general bigotry. Pointing out at the lack of courage to form an authentic connection, the song also seems to diss people who showcased a change in their attitude as Camila grew in her career but leans more towards our former interpretation. In her song ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, the singer addressed the unhealthy repercussions of a one-sided relationship, run without reciprocation. As her prospects grew, the other side started to show an interest but the timing is bad.
What sets ‘Should’ve Said It’ apart from ‘Felt It Twice’ is the artist’s reaction to the same situation from two different perspectives. In the former single, she is angry while in the latter, she is tired. As she tries to weigh what will hurt more, her being left or her leaving, she shares the turbulence that goes within one’s mind as they make the painful choice. In terms of musicality, ‘Felt It Twice’ leans toward the lower side of the spectrum and is more contemplative. Demanding neither judgment nor sympathy, the song attempts to show the tragic side of love.
Cry For Me
Every human being is fallible but we fear judgment and often refrain from talking about emotions like envy. Jealousy is a natural emotion but is often seen as a mark of immature which is both misconstrued and unfortunate. Through her upbeat production “Cry For Me”, Camila shares how one can feel jealous of their past lover as they move on faster than you. Inspired from one of her earlier songs, this new track wishes wrath on the ex-lover as the artist ponders if they are enjoying life as much as it appears to be. While ‘Should’ve Said It’ was a prideful reprimand, this track is more vulnerable, bringing Ed Sheeran’s ‘Happier’ to mind. Laced with electric guitar, the song possesses rock vibe, leaving a lot of space of performative experimentation during concerts and live shows. The last bit of the single is heavily concentrated on the instrumentation, seemingly a trait of the sub-genre picked. This kind of production will immediately bring BTS’ Tomorrow’ in mind as the group utilizes the same bit to let fans contemplate the effect of the work once the lyrics end.
My Oh My feat. DaBaby
Jonathan Lyndale Kirk, known as DaBaby, is an American rapper who debuted this year with his album “Baby on Baby”. He topped the Billboard 200 charts with his second studio album ‘Kirk’ that was released a few months later. The notorious single unleashes drama as it explores one’s carnal desires. There is nothing to read between the lines and this probably makes it stand out because Camila is addressing the topic as a matter of fact – the need for sexual fulfilment which acts as one of the many aspects of ‘romance’, irrespective of its nature.
Sonically, it’s one of the best singles of the album. “My Oh My” seems to be crafted out of layered perspective, wherein the background vocals enact the chaos and the humdrum of the crowd while the main vocals possess the quality of defiance. The single could have easily qualified for the title track and it would be interesting to see what kind of concept the team will bring if a music video is released for the song.
“Senorita” with Shawn Mendes
Talked and written about multiple times, “Senorita” is one of the trending tracks of the year 2019. Featuring Shawn Mendes, the single acted as an official announcement of his and Camila’s relationship. The star-studded ensemble got the production credits as Cashmere Cat and Benny Blanco collaborated with Watt to create this hot track. Tracing Latin roots, the song carries the sound of her hometown and explores the ambiguous relationship without the couple trying to find a conclusion to their quest.
Marking their second collaboration after Mendes’ ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’, the song is yet another example of how well their professional pairing works. Both the vocalists succeed in maintaining the mood of the single as their voices blend to create a fluctuating wave of rising and falling emotions, enacting the sensuality of dance shown in the video. While one of the most popular tracks of the album, the song can easily find its competitor in other tracks like “My Oh My” that are equally powerful.
“Used to This” and “Easy”
This brilliantly crafted album adopts the kind of storytelling that seamlessly brings out pairs like this one. What binds these songs together is the subject matter that Camila is trying to deal with from different angles and through different perspectives. The positioning of the tracks gives us a glimpse into her artistic vision as she attempts to pay attention to the minutest detail of her subject, working alongside a team of talented creators as they sit together to build an immersive narrative.
Easy can be seen as a sequel to “Used to This”, a positive transition that was more of hope in the former single. Transitioning from being a friend, a comment we found in “Senorita”, the artist tries to buy time to make the shift in her relationship. Highly personal in terms of its lyrics, the song talks about the beginning of her relationship with Shawn Mendes. There are references to the place they first dated (reportedly) and to the latter’s tattoo which now seem to hold more intimate meaning than mere etching. The song carries a rush, hitting adrenaline as one encounter excitement for something new and worthy.
Camila, over the last few years, has shared her reflection on social media, overthinking, love, and many other topics and in one of her posts, she shared the lessons she learned when she turned 22. Always supportive of ‘love’, the artist shared the necessity of it and the satisfaction one feels when they find the right person. “Easy” seems to be an open letter to her lover, as Camila lists all the traits she sees as her flaws but her other half views a part of her ‘self’. What seems like a critique, in the beginning, takes a pleasant turn as the song progresses. Through this single, the artist is trying to address the comfort a relationship can bring once the people in it are allowed to be vulnerable in front of each other. In terms of its music, the song has a concluding tone as Camila, after sharing her struggle with the past encounters declares her comfort with her present.
Bad Kind of Butterflies
One of the most refreshing songs after “My Oh My”, the song showcases Camila’s prowess as a vocalist. Her vocal range is mind-blowing and surpasses beyond one’s ability to sing notes. Her voice has a distinct flavour and with every new song, we are made to encounter more variety. Not only is it pleasant to the ears but also helps the listener remain in suspense as they anticipate something new from the artist.
“Bad Kind of Butterflies” talks about anxiety but not the one that comes with a good opportunity. Playing on the phrase “butterflies in the stomach”, the artist shares how she is trying to accept her feelings but is reluctant to actually do it. But lyrically, this song can leave the listener confused. While the song in general talks about Camila’s dying love for her past lover, it also hints towards one’s transition in emotion as they can no longer look at someone as a mere friend. Open to interpretation, the song can invite a lot of theories from the fans and other listeners alike.
Dream of You
Completely in lines of Easy, the song is about the process of falling in love. Sharing the tidbits of habit she shares with her lover, Camila creates a lyrical image to explain what it means to be in love. As cheesy as it may sound, she grounds the emotion in reality. Like most of the songs from the album, “Dream of You” is a very strong contender and might rise on charts in the coming weeks. The dreamy sound of the single compliments the subject matter of the album but even as a standalone track, the production is both amicable and memorable.
One of the most personal songs from the album, “This Love” is an excruciating ballad that talks about toxic relationships, a subject Camila explicitly deals with, for the first time in this album. But her reference to love as a drug isn’t new. The imagery found its place in “Never Be the Same” and “Shameless” where she treats love as an emotion that affects her physical, emotional, and mental well being.
While in “Never Be the Same”, she wanted to feel love inside her veins, now, she wants it out. Confused and hurt, the artist shares her perplexity as tries to figure out her place in such a relationship and why she ended up falling again and again.
The best thing about art is that it gives a medium to an individual to immortalize a memory. If you’ve known Camila even one bit, it wouldn’t be difficult to recall her immense love for her father. The artist has always been vocal about her parents and their contribution to her success as an individual and as an artist. This song, written as the first single for the album, is a beautiful gift of a daughter to her father. Talking about the worries of her father as she explores her relationship and tries to ensure him of good feeling which she gets out of her man, the song gives us yet another glimpse into her life with her family. The song must be praised for its intricacy as it tries to capture unsaid conversations between a father and the daughter, detailing out the gestures they make to show how much they care for each other. The ballad tune of the single does complete justice to the gravity of the emotion put forth.
While talking about the song, Camila stated,
“First Man” was actually the first song that I wrote for the album and I remember walking to the studio that day. I had a bunch of lyrics and a bunch of ideas, but I started talking about my dad. And I started getting really emotional about it. I’ve heard that song – I don’t know how many times – every single time I picture my dad’s face and it makes me cry. I think it’s just going to be a song that I listen to when I’m 80 years old and it’ll make me sob in the same way because I’ve immortalized a memory of somebody that was one of the people that I love most in the entire world.
The album is so well written and produced that it does seem to have taken time, both in terms of ideation and execution. We are completely blown away by the poetic quality that this record possesses and the variety in Camila’s range we had the chance to listen to. Our favourite tracks are “My Oh My”, “Dream of You”, ” First Man”, and “Bad Kinds of Butterflies”.
Producer Ensemble: Louis Bell, Jon Bellion, Benny Blanco, Cashmere Cat, DJ HardWerk, Frank Dukes, Dukes, German, John Hill, Carter Lang, Mattman & n, Jordan Reynolds, The Monsters and the Strangerz, Watt, and Westen Weiss.
What do you think about the album? Share your thoughts on Camila Cabello and your favourite songs off the record via tweet @CelebMix.