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Camila Cabello – Familia review: Still in her own lane

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hen it comes to the list of X Factor escapees, people in this country might be less inclined to think of Camila Cabello, whose former girl group, Fifth Harmony, was formed on the show Little Mix style and came third. For one thing, we paid less attention to the American version of the series over here, and another, now that the 25-year-old is releasing her third solo album she’s left that world far behind.

She’s a lead actress now, having starred in Amazon’s movie musical version of Cinderella last year. She also has a significant number of solo hits and big name collaborations to her name. Her singles Señorita and Havana went to number one around the world, her highly catchy current single, Bam Bam, is her second duet with Ed Sheeran, and the internet still seems deeply concerned with the state of her romantic relationship with fellow singer Shawn Mendes (it’s off, gossip fans).

What other collaborators, such as Major Lazer and Mark Ronson, will have recognised is an expressive singing voice with the slightest dusting of huskiness that makes her stick out as a class act on mainstream pop’s conveyor belt. As she has developed, she has also immersed herself more and more in her Cuban-Mexican genetics. Familia’s title track opens this album with a sweltering horn solo and a slinky reggaeton rhythm. Her first lines are sung in Spanish, and later there’s a riotous set of male backing voices giving a Cuban feel to Don’t Go Yet that raises the temperature considerably.

The album title refers to time spent with family during lockdown, and though there’s increased reference to her roots in the music, lyrically there isn’t much that feels uniquely her own. There’s plenty of romance, either failed or imminent, but no huge drama. “My skin’s so soft today/But you’re so far away,” she laments on La Buena Vida. On Quiet, she’s “Lookin’ at your hands, thinkin’ of my plans for them.” Even when she seems to be singing about Fifth Harmony, for whom she was the Robbie/Zayn/Geri character by abandoning ship first, she’s boringly magnanimous: “I don’t blame the girls for how it went down,” she offers on Psycho Freak, which also has a Tom’s Diner feel and an overwrought cameo from Will Smith’s daughter Willow.

Still, while there could be more real Latin fire here, there’s enough to keep her in her own lane among pop’s solo A-listers.

(Columbia)

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