tue 23/07/2024

Album: Camila Cabello - C,XOXO | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Camila Cabello - C,XOXO

Album: Camila Cabello - C,XOXO

She's rattling the bars of her creative cage, but they're not breaking

Oh this is sad. Up until this point Camilla Cabello has been a good pop star. Her biggest songs were loaded with familiar-to-the-point-of-cheesiness retro Latin samples, or angsty mini-dramas loaded with the musical theatre-style chops that had made her an X-Factor star in her teens, always delivered with a ton of conviction and feeling.

Even the infuriatingly catchy “Senorita” with her then boyfriend Shawn Mendes somehow managed to maintain likeability despite its ubiquity. There was a general sense that she knew what she was doing and was good at it; she had her own lane.

It feels churlish to criticise a pop artist for wanting to be more. Some of the greatest moments in music have come out of reinventions, transformations, rebellions against typecasting. Cabello broke through as a solo artist, after all, with the hyperpop of a 2017 collaboration with Norwegian electronica oddball Cashmere Cat. If a former squeaky clean star wants to get sexy or punky or weird, let a thousand blossoms bloom, it’s all good. And it’s certainly understandable that Cabello might have issues with being a vehicle for a kitschy version of her Cuban / Mexican heritage as she grows into herself – there’s no reason she should be expected to repeat herself on that front.

But unfortunately this album is all over the place. There’s trippy autotune and trap-derived triplet phrasing all over the shop, but she doesn’t seem able to engage with those things in a musicianly way like, say, Ariana Grande or Miley Cyrus does. There are weird electronic glitches, dance beats, dancehall energy, all naturally produced with all the lavishness that a billion-streaming artist should get, but somehow none of it fits together. There aren’t any massive hooks, but neither does the production or the delivery provide enough peculiarity to make it feel like a radical break or something exploratory.

Not that it doesn’t have interesting moments. In the second half especially, there’s the hyped up Afro-dancehall patterns of “Hot Uptown” which could be great if Cabello was more confident and it wasn’t for Drake leering all over it, there’s the beautifully-arranged reggaetón of “DREAM GIRLS”, and best of all there’s the lavishly disoriented but belligerent house pumper “Pretty When I Cry”. But none of it flows together, and none of it has the naturalness that Cabello brings to the more conventional material she’s always been best at. It’s frustrating, because you want a break-out from constrictions to succeed. Maybe she’ll push all the way through in future... but this just ain’t it.

@joemuggs

Listen to "I LUV IT":

If a former squeaky clean star wants to get sexy or punky or weird, let a thousand blossoms bloom

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Average: 2 (1 vote)

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