In both its raucous joy and delicate introspection, Familia finally finds Camila establishing a sound and perspective distinctly hers.
Although she’s been part of the pop landscape for the past ten years – first as a member of Fifth Harmony, and then as a solo artist – Camila Cabello has struggled to carve out her own niche. She has one of the most recognizable voices in modern pop (raspy and nasal, unique and alluring), but while it’s always obvious when she’s hopped on a track, her individual sound as an artist has been harder to pin down. Familia returns to the fame-granting Latin rhythms of “Havana,” but here combined with more confessional and introspective songwriting. The result is quite strong, offering something altogether more kaleidoscopic from Cabello.
While Familia is, in Cabello’s words, inspired by “family & food,” dancing, and good times, the album also dwells on anxiety and heartbreak. Standout “psychofreak” (featuring Willow on the chorus, whose vocals are a rich textural addition) sees Cabello feeling like “an alien” because “Earth is hard,” battling a plague of negative thoughts and dissociation while her friends have fun at a party. “No Doubt” moves between bouts of intense paranoia about an unfaithful lover and the reassurance she receives from him whenever they are together. Unsoothed jealousy also rears its head on “Hasta los Dientes” (one of two all-Spanish tracks on the album), a neat little disco duet with Argentinian singer María Becerra. Cabello has previously made a point to speak out about her struggles with mental health, and it’s worth noting that Cabello boasts co-writes on all her music here, including solo lyric credits for five songs, which makes these explorations of anxiety all the more vulnerable.
That’s not to imply Familia is devoid of joy, however. Lead single “Don’t Go Yet” is a playful explosion of Latin pop, a full-on party in a three-minute package trying to convince a lover to stay. Likewise, “Bam Bam” (featuring previous collaborator Ed Sheeran) touches on the struggles of a mid-twenties breakup, before bursting into an anthem about rolling with life’s hardships. It’s breezy and light, a style that suits Cabello much better than some of her previous overwrought offerings. But more than simply communicating fun, Cabello sounds like she’s having fun throughout the album rather than merely ticking off the requisite party-track boxes, especially when she gets to sing about Cuba in Spanish on the slinky “Celia.”
Even during its occasional awkward moments (“Lola” rhymes the title character’s name with both “supernova” and “Barcelona”; “everyone at this party” has a verbose chorus that could’ve been trimmed to match the spare acoustics), Familia is a solid and surprising record that both provides more meaningful insight into Cabello as a person and articulates her perspective as an artist. It’s adventurous and deeply personal, a work that (finally) feels like it could only have come from Cabello herself.
Published as part of Album Roundup — April 2022 | Part 1.