How Camila Cabello Lost Some Friends and Found Her Voice


Reggie Ugwu The New York Times (11 January 2018) writes about Camila Cabello, who released two albums as a member of Fifth Harmony before splitting from the group. According to Ugwu, she wrote on every song on her solo debut, “Camila.” Here are excerpts:

Camila Cabello has been in love only once. But when it comes to crushes, she’s a connoisseur.

The pop singer and songwriter, formerly of the girl group Fifth Harmony, has filled pages of notes on her iPhone with ruminations on the sugar rush of embryonic infatuation and its aftermath – words of hunger and grit that her fans turn into Instagram captions and scream back at her in concert. A pair of suggestive duets in the last two years, “I Know What You Did Last Summer” with Shawn Mendes and “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly, have been streamed over 520 million times, according to Nielsen Music. Along with her breakout solo smash from last summer, “Havana,” which has led Billboard’s pop radio chart longer than any other song by a solo female artist in the past five years, they’ve helped turn her into an avatar for young girls on the cusp of steeper emotional terrain.

On a December afternoon in a leafy neighborhood here, Ms. Cabello, 20, whose name is pronounced “ca-meela ca-beyo,” revisited ground zero of her romantic vicissitudes. Ten years ago, in the butterfly garden at Pinecrest Elementary School, a young Romeo set a date with her among the Panama roses and gave her her first kiss, unlocking the source code for a bottomless trove of love songs.

“It was this boy that I was obsessed with my whole time in elementary school,” she recalled, standing in the garden. “He kissed me on the cheek and I ran away – I still do that when someone wants to kiss me.”

Though not yet of legal drinking age, Ms. Cabello has come a long way from the schoolyard. At 15, she was beamed into the homes of millions of Americans as a contestant on the United States version of the reality-singing competition “The X Factor.” The show placed her in a five-woman vocal group modeled on One Direction that the viewers at home named Fifth Harmony. Two albums – on Simon Cowell’s Syco label in partnership with Epic Records – and six tours followed in a span of five years, during which time Ms. Cabello was, if not officially the group’s lead, a consensus favorite, with the biggest voice and those disarming eyes.

And then it all went to pieces. As manufactured pop groups tend to do. Only in this case, the split seemed sudden and surprisingly vicious: One day, Fifth Harmony was performing at the final stop of the Jingle Ball tour, smiling and hair-flipping. The next, a series of contentious and contradictory statements were released, and Ms. Cabello found herself on the lonely end of a sharp divide.

That was just over a year ago. In the interim, Ms. Cabello has struck out on her own, putting her hands on the controls of her professional life for the first time.

Her new album, “Camila,” arriving Jan. 12, will test her prospects as a solo proposition. The biggest stars to break away from groups – Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake, Beyoncé – did so from stronger footing, in eras when the music industry was thriving. Today, Ms. Cabello is just one in a cacophony of voices aiming to break through in a harsh, post-streaming environment. [. . .]

Ms. Cabello comes from a lineage of strivers. She was born in Havana to a Cuban mother and Mexican father and moved back and forth between Cojímar and Mexico City until the age of 6. One day, her mother, Sinuhe, told her she was going to Disney World, and the two spent the next month together riding by bus to an immigration center at the Mexican border with the United States. Sinuhe had been an architect in Cuba, but in Miami, where she and her daughter moved in with a close family friend, she found work in the shoe department at a Marshall’s. Alejandro, Ms. Cabello’s father, emigrated later and earned money washing cars at the mall. Eventually the couple saved enough to start their own construction company.

[. . .] But dreams can change. In a statement released at midnight on Dec. 18, 2016, the four other members of the group suggested that Ms. Cabello had turned her back on them, communicating her intentions to leave “through her representatives.” Ms. Cabello, in a subsequent statement of her own, said that she had long been open about her desire to explore a solo career and was blindsided by what amounted to a public excommunication. [. . .]

[. . .] Many of the songs on “Camila,” which Mr. Feeney executive produced and includes writing by Ms. Cabello on every track, are infused with tonal or lyrical references to her Latin heritage. Ms. Cabello said she took inspiration from the Latin music that soundtracked her childhood, as well as more contemporary reggaeton revisionists like Calle 13 and J Balvin. Then she blended those sounds with the auteur pop of artists like her friends Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, hoping to unearth her own original recipe. [. . .]

To view “Havana” music video, click here.

For full article, see Accessed via National Institute for Latino Policy.

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