Camila Cabello – Familia

Epic Records

Release Date: April 8th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Camila Cabello– Familia (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Familia
  2. Celia
  3. Psychofreak (feat. WILLOW)
  4. Bam Bam (feat. Ed Sheeram)
  5. La Buena Vida
  6. Quiet
  7. Boys Don’t Cry
  8. Hasta Los Dientes (feat. Maria Becerra)
  9. No Doubt
  10. Don’t Go Yet
  11. Lola (feat. Yotuel)
  12. Everyone At This Party

When Camila Cabello left girl-group Fifth Harmony in 2016 to embark on a solo career… I would have to say that long-time fans were feeling betrayed, angry, and possibly disappointed. Later on, the group dissolved in 2018 as the remaining 4 members wanted to venture out and record solo albums… but was Camila leaving actually a driving force in the group splitting? Would the group still be here today if Camilla hadn’t gone the solo route first? I wasn’t a fan of Fifth Harmony nor Camila back then- and even now I’m not that much of an avid fan. I can appreciate good music though, and objectively Camila as a solo artist and Fifth Harmony as a short-lived band are way too popular for me to be putting my head in the sand about them any longer! And thus, here we are as Camilla has unveiled her third album Familia. Objectively from Camila’s songs that I’ve heard here and there, I for one instinctively know when someone comes along who is just special in their craft. Camila is one such an artist. It’s a shame that Fifth Harmony split, and I’m sure Camila leaving was a factor (although it may have been a small factor!); but what we now have presented to us within the past few years, is Camila’s debut album Camila, her sophomore album Romance, and her latest album Familia. One of the many artists who just missed out in our blog series of ‘influential artists of the next 5-10 years’ (but we will talk about in our ‘honourable mentions’ post later on!); Camila’s prowess as a songwriter and as a singer simply just keeps on rising and rising and rising. If you are unaware of any song from Camila (and really, I reckon we’ve all heard “Senorita” probably more times than we can count, or more times than we’d want to admit!), then can I say that the album Familia would be the best place to start? And also, let me just say that “Don’t Go Yet” is one of the most energetic, moving, and poppy songs from Camila yet! If you’re not sure where to start in listening to her music (because her music is undoubtedly bright and sunny, and we all could use ‘sunny’ in the midst of everything going on in our world right now!); then I’d say “Don’t Go Yet” and by extension Familia, is the best place to start.

I want it to be that kind of family affair selfishly, because it would make me happy. It would make my life better and that’s what I want, so that’s really what I was trying to manifest with this whole album. I think ‘Don’t Go Yet’ is just sonically and melodically just me being free. I think being in Miami for so long and having more family around me and speaking Spanish more just kind of brought me back. I think my roots went deeper in a way that I really needed. I was just like, ‘I just want to connect today with the people in this room.’ And I think that really showed itself in the music. I think this was a chance for me to really consciously work on and invest in what I think makes me and human beings truly happy, which is your relationships and your connection to the people around you.

Essentially, the entire vibe of the album Familia is like a party- a get-together with family and friends. And so, let me speak about this first single “Don’t Got Yet”- because this melody… is probably the heart and soul of the album. With the music video being extremely picturesque and featuring Camila’s immediate and extended family and friends having a blast, the track speaks about the persona wanting their partner/lover to stay with them and ‘don’t go yet’. It’s a song whereby one person is begging the other not to break up with them or maybe not to move to another country. However, the beauty of songs in general is that different interpretations can exist for different people, and because this song is the lead single from Familia; perhaps the track can be interpreted in the way of Camila wanting to spend more time with her family? At least that’s the way I interpreted the song. Any who listen may view this song in another way, and that’s fine as well. No matter which way you slice it though, “Don’t Go Yet” is a thoroughly enjoyable lead single and a track that beautifully encapsulates Camila’s longing and desire to be close to family, friends and loved ones throughout this unpredictable and chaotic time.

With Familia embodying a sense of freedom, uninhibition, flamboyance, happiness, joy, celebration, and passion; this project was released shortly after Camila and Shawn Mendes broke up. This album though, isn’t a sad album and isn’t an album for reflection though. Every track reminds us of living life to the fullest despite hardship, and Camila brushes off her problems and issues with grace and poise- instead choosing to live in the reality of freedom and fun. As this is a ‘mainstream’ album, which isn’t concerned with topics about eternity, the concept seeped in and permeated throughout, that we only have one life and we should live it according to how we feel and what is best for us, is a concept that speaks volumes. Familia is about us all taking care of our mental, emotional, and physical well-being; the result being a lyrically strong album that many listeners can and will relate to. With the title track and 20 second instrumental album opener being a saxophone intro; the project ‘really’ opens with “Celia”. A groovy, laid-back Latin flavoured 2 minute pop melody; Camila sings entirely in Spanish, about a boy who is head over heels in love with a woman who he hardly knows, and someone who is willing to compromise his inner most beliefs and values for someone else. Some would say that this song is sweet and that the persona in this song should take a chance on love. However, Camila subtly reminds us that people shouldn’t make life changing decisions on a whim, and encourages us all to dive deep into the inner most parts of ourselves and figure out who we are, before we go and give our hearts away to someone else.

The rest of the album presents a fun and poppy atmosphere; whilst staying grounded in the theme of family and love and acceptance from your peers. “Psychofreak”, with rapper WILLOW, is an intense, hard-hitting confessional melody, about Camila’s rise to fame, first as part of Fifth Harmony and then as a solo artist. She outlines the mental and emotional toil that fame has had on her and relays that she feels like an outsider and an alien most of the time. This track unfortunately, has no resolution and isn’t comforting at all; however, it’s super vulnerable, despite the darkness and despair all throughout. On the contrary, “Bam Bam” with Ed Sheeran, is undoubtedly and uncharacteristically positive and optimistic. With the track being an album highlight for sure, “Bam Bam” delves into the concept of ‘Que Sera Sera’, and with Camila and Ed both singing in perfect harmony, that sometimes life knocks you down but you have to get back up off your feet and be positive otherwise your fears and failures have won. With this melody encouraging us to keep dancing in the face of adversity and everything life throws at us; for a mainstream song, this is pretty sound advice- and it doesn’t hurt that the acoustic guitar pop tune is incredibly catchy and danceable.

“La Buena Vida”, the laid-back guitar led Spanish influenced melody, speaks about Camila’s yearning and desire to taste and experience the ‘good life’ on a consistent basis, and is a plea or a cry to her ex, asking him where the good life is, because even though she isn’t in love with her ex anymore, her affluent lifestyle and her fame isn’t enjoyable without him beside her. The song could also be about the fact that Camila is still missing Shawn; however, the vagueness and ambiguity of the track means that we can take this song for us all and have it mean whatever we want it to mean. How often do we feel like our life would be complete with someone special in it, even if it is the ‘wrong’ someone? This track tries to reconcile this tension together, and that’s a pretty nifty track to encompass all of these conflicting emotions. “Quiet”, a sensual, playful and heart-warming song about physical intimacy and the everlasting love between two people (and really Camila’s expression of love towards Shawn during their time together!), is a melody that encourages us all to find a love like that which is describes in this song; while another personal album highlight is the reflective and contemplative “Boys Don’t Cry”. A track whereby Camila sings to Shawn (most of these songs were written and recorded before their break-up!) and asks him to be vulnerable for her because that is what ‘real men’ should be like; the track inspires us all to be real and be honest and authentic with everyone around us. As society tells men to not cry and to hold in our feelings, Camila encourages men to buck the trend and to change the narrative, outlining that men should be given permission by their partners, friends and family to ‘…give me your pain, I’ll take the weight off your shoulders, don’t be afraid, fall into me, let me hold ya, we weren’t made to hold back the rain from the sky, yeah, whoever told you that boys don’t cry, boys don’t cry?…’. Could this track be groundbreaking and revolutionary?

“Hasta Los Dientes”, a Spanish duet with Maria Becerra, is translated as literally “To The Teeth”. A powerful and expressive melody where both vocalists relay that the persona isn’t over their ex, and the very sight of them now with their new partner, makes their teeth hurt; reminds us all that the pain and hurt from a break up is very real and it takes time to heal from the wounds and their transgressions. Forgiveness can happen but it isn’t easy. “No Doubt”, a melody with a theme as dark as “Psychofreak”, speaks about Camila’s insecurities and anxiety about her self-worth. A melody whereby Camila sings about her ex’s lovemaking and that he was distracting her from her mental issues for a while; she also relays that the insecurities came back in the morning, and it could’ve been the insecurities or lack of communication that played a part in the break up. A song that subtly encourages us to go all in with the one we love in every facet; the melody inspires us to be honest and totally real with our partner and not real ‘to a certain extent’.

“Lola”, with Yotuel, is the penultimate track on this release, and is a heartbreaking acoustic melody about a girl called Lola who lived in Cuba and had her dreams crushed when she was young. As Camila has mentioned about the track: “Lola” was written while the San Isidro movement was taking place in Cuba. I put it on my choreographers and they told me that she felt very sexy. The lyrics talk about a girl who is incredibly intelligent, talented, and with a lot of potential, but who can’t do anything with her talent because she lives in a country that censors her and does not give her opportunities. I contacted Yotuel, who was part of the song “Patria y Vida,” which pays tribute to this movement where people protested in the streets of Cuba against the dictatorship that existed for a long time. He wrote his part of the song and sent it to me, we talked about the reality of a beautiful country that they have wanted to destroy. With Camilla earnestly and fervently relaying to us that Lola ‘…coulda walked on the moon, yeah, she coulda found us a cure, but family didn’t have no food and, she had to leave school to work, nobody breaks the ceiling, nobody where she’s from…’, we are glimpsed into the harrowing atrocities and the economic and social disparities of the working class people living in Cuba, juxtaposed with the rich and the elite. This type of social justice song makes us want to stand up and actively choose to enact positive change that people around the world can feel the effects of; and for this reason alone, “Lola” is a melody that we all need to hear, if only just to become more aware of everything that is happening in the world. Familia then ends with the confessional, emotive, vulnerable and honest acoustic guitar ballad “Everyone At This Party”, whereby Camila speaks about feeling anxious at a party, and feeling insecure- wanting to see an ex (Shawn?) while almost not wanting to see him at the same time.

The album’s journey started with Scott Harris and our makeshift studio in my bedroom in Miami about a year ago. We just had a mic, some MIDI keyboards and guitars! Then we brought it to LA where I met and worked with Mike Sabath for the first time. That first day of working together, we wrote this song after listening to old Cuban songs and playing with my dog Tarzan. Then Ricky Reed (who side-gigs as my therapist sometimes LOL) put his sauce alllll over it. These guys have become my true friends and we created a really loving and inspiring creative space. This whole album to me was inspired by two things: family and food. Your family by blood, but also your chosen family. Who you want to break bread with. Who you want to sit at the dinner table with, cook a meal for, get wine-drunk with, and dance in the living room with. To me, those are the moments that make me glad to be alive, those moments of collective joy and true vulnerability and connection with other people. Moments where the food you cooked together feeds your soul and so does the laughter, conversation, and emotional intimacy. I hope you enjoy it and I hope it inspires many wine drunk kitchen dance parties for you and your familia.

I’m not an avid Camila Cabello fan. I’m still not though. Yet I can appreciate good music and that’s why I’m keeping an open mind as to how God chooses to speak to me. And thus, the energy, passion and overall joy evident on Familia juxtaposed with the raw, vulnerable and honest ballads as well; has me intrigued and even excited somewhat for whatever Camila records next in the future. I guess you could say this album is the start of a new chapter for Camila (maybe it’s the start of a new chapter for everyone’s first album post-COVID-19!); and with Camila sure to be present on everyone’s lips in the coming weeks and months (and she was definitely on everyone’s lips last year when she was starring in the Amazon Prime original film Cinderella!), Familia ensures that songs like “Don’t Go Yet” and “Bam Bam” to name a few, will be in our heads for a long time (because they’re catchy!), and songs like “Lola” and Boys Don’t Cry” will be in our heads for a long time also (for the powerful and poignant lyrics!). It is also a fact that I’ve realised when listening to this release, that Camila will be someone we’ll be talking about during the upcoming months, and maybe years. Well done Camila for a celebratory pop album that will be present on my Apple Music and Spotify playlists for a while yet! And now… who reckons I should check out the individual careers of the rest of Fifth Harmony? Yes? No? Maybe?

I’m really trying to take it in, you know? Because I’ve been going, going, going, it’s important to have those moments where you’re like ‘Wow this album was a two-year journey for me’. This album and the journey of it was really life changing for me. I feel like I learned the most I’ve ever learned. I really changed as a person. I think the difference between me now and me before was in the writing process. Sometimes I just felt like I had a lot to prove… And I also think my own battles with anxiety and mental health stuff – when I was younger I felt a lot of shame in talking about it. I felt like I had to have it all together and be this confident ‘pop star.’ And on the inside, I was just really struggling. This time around I was like, ‘You know what? I’m not trying to prove anything to anybody!

3 songs to listen to: Bam Bam, Boys Don’t Cry, Don’t Go Yet

Score: 4/5

RIYL: Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha, Selena Gomez, Ava Max, Halsey, Olivia Rodrigo

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