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CAMILA TAKES CENTER STAGE

Camila has arrived. The debut full-length by SYCO/Epic’s Camila Cabello became available on Friday, 1/12, as single “Havana” continues to explode. And as Elton John pointed out to Metro, “She’s just so gorgeous and so much fun; she’s got a great voice and she has great attitude… I think 2018’s going to be an amazing year for her.” He’s right; this looks like her year. But it wasn’t all rainbows and smash hits for the former Fifth Harmony member with the gargantuan—and tremendously active—social-media following. (15.2m on Instagram alone.)

As part of the X Factor-launched Fifth Harmony, she supported two albums with six tours in five years. It can be tricky for a pop-group member to succeed as a solo act, and many can’t reach the same superstardom on their own. But Cabello is an exception to the rule. She first made post-Harmony headlines courtesy of dynamic duets with Shawn Mendes (“I Know What You Did Last Summer”) and Machine Gun Kelly (“Bad Things”). Her solo success didn’t happen overnight, though. A few Cabello-only releases failed to completely connect; “Crying in the Club”—the now-gold record that went Top 20 at Pop radio—and “I Have Questions” both dropped at the end of May. And “OMG” f/Quavo appeared simultaneously with “Havana” in August.

Her introduction was about tenacity. The tenacity exemplified by Cabello, yes, but also by her team. Epic didn’t give up. They believed in her. And then came “Havana,” which had the electricity to set things ablaze, and has since been streamed more than 590m times on Spotify. So Cabello’s debut album is led by a two-times platinum single that went #1 at Pop radio over the 2017 holidays. And with 45m+ monthly Spotify listeners, she’s the second-most-listened-to artist—and the #1 female—in the world on the platform.

Those three other tracks are not on Camila, leaving much to discover. The current focus is on “Never Be the Same,” which was #22 and climbing at Pop at press time. As a whole, Camila is a heart-on-her-sleeve cocktail of the ups and downs—the confidence, confusion and growing pains—that come from being 20 years old and at the center of everything: What’s real? What’s not? What matters? Who cares?

Cabello originally named this set of songs The Hurting, The Healing, The Loving; she’s multifaceted, and it shows. “Consequences”—a piano-driven and refreshingly vulnerable ballad, which includes a co-writing credit for Amy Wadge (Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud”)—opens with, “Dirty tissues, trust issues/glasses on the sink; they didn’t fix you/Lonely pillows on a stranger’s bed/little voices in my head.” “Stop the bleeding,” she later pleads before proclaiming, “Lost a little weight because I wasn’t eating.” And the ultimate message: “Loving you had consequences.”

Cabello’s army-like fanbase expects the in-your-face (at times ugly) truth. They want all of you and they want it now. With this album (specifically track #9, “In the Dark”), she probes, “Who are you in the dark? Show me the scary parts.” That is what it’s all about. Camila still recognizes the thrill of exploring lust and maturation with playful earworms “Havana” and “Inside Out,” the bold “She Loves Control” and the sultry, tongue-in-cheek “Into It”—written in part by Justin Tranter and Ryan Tedder—but it’s more than that. And it appears the same can be said for Camila the human being and Camila the rising star.

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