ALBUM REVIEW | Camila Cabello Honors Mexican-Cuban Heritage with New Album ‘Familia’
With her new album, 25-year-old Camila Cabello marks her strongest artistic stance to date. The new record features 12 tracks that drip the smoky Latin pop that we’ve been expecting from Cabello since her 2017 top-charting hit, “Havana.”
Lockdown was hard on everyone. Havana-born, Miami-raised singer-songwriter Camila Cabello used that time to explore her inner self and her feelings, good and bad. What came out of these two years of self-reflection and growth is Familia, a deeply personal 12-track album that takes root in the artist’s Mexican-Cuban heritage. Familia was fully co-written by Cabello, who surrounded herself with a small group of collaborators for this project.
The opening, eponymous track establishes the mood of the album. Featuring only a trumpet played by Mike Cordone, the 17-second track serves as an introduction into Cabello’s Latin world. It then fades right into the second track, “Celia.” As the first lyrical track on the album, “Celia” sets the tone in quite a few ways. For starters, the track is one of the only two tracks that are sung entirely in Spanish on the album. In the rest of the record, Cabello switches effortlessly from English to Spanish in almost every track. “Celia” also features backing vocals from Cabello’s eight-year-old cousin. This shows the singer’s effort to honor the album title by featuring family members.
In the same vein, Cabello’s father, Alejandro, is featured on the fifth track of the album, “La Buena Vida.” The track is one that fans were already familiar with. Cabello had closed her 2021 NPR Tiny Desk (Home) Concert with the tune. Another track that fans had previously heard was “Don’t Go Yet,” Cabello’s first release since her second studio album.
Camila Cabello Brings Collaborators on ‘Familia’
Aside from loved ones, a few other familiar names pop up on the album. Four tracks feature collaborators that the singer hand-picked wisely, and much in the respect of her half-half album, for two of them sing in English, and two in Spanish. Cabello teamed up with Argentine singer and rapper, María Becerra for the second fully-Spanish track “Hasta Los Dientes.” The pop beat drips with disco influences while tackling themes like self-doubt and jealousy.
Similarly, her collaboration with Cuban singer Yotuel, “Lola,” is also one that addresses sensible subjects like sexism and corruption over very dancy rumba rhythms. As for the English-speaking counterparts, one should be an “alien” like Cabello to have missed “Bam Bam,” the singer’s second collaboration with British superstar Ed Sheeran. Inspired by a saying of her mother, “Así e’ la vida” (“That’s how life is”), which is referenced in the chorus, the track was released a month ahead of the album. Quickly becoming a fan-favourite, ”Bam Bam” has already gathered over 78 million streams on Spotify alone.
Camila’s Relatable Lyrics
Familia also features American singer-songwriter WILLOW on the track “Psychofreak.” First teased during an Instagram live in September 2021, the track tackles a theme that is recurring in the album and important to Cabello: mental health. The accompanying music video is a perfect reflection of the anxiety and the feelings of disassociation that the singer has struggled with since she got her start on The X Factor at age 15. What fans most likely didn’t expect was for Cabello to mention her former Fifth Harmony bandmates in the track. She shares, “I’ve been on this ride since I was fifteen, I don’t blame the girls for how it went down,” referencing the pretty dramatic back-and-forth that ensued between them on social media following her premature departure from the band.
Speaking of breakups, it would be hard to listen to a new Camila Cabello album without looking for hints of inspiration from now ex-boyfriend Shawn Mendes. Whether or not they were indeed inspired by the Canadian singer, tracks like “Boys Don’t Cry,” “No Doubt” and “Quiet” lean towards the more vulnerable side of Cabello, one she only lets out when in relationships. The only track that would be hard to deny being Mendes-inspired is “everyone at this party,” for Cabello quite literally references Mendes’ and her mutual friends and their two-year-long relationship. The acoustic ballad serves as the closing track to the standard version of Familia. It is a beautiful reminder that at the end of the day, Cabello is just human.
All in all, Familia tells the story of Camila Cabello’s loves and relationships. From her relationship with herself, to the relationships she shares with her family, her friends, and her partners. Over candid moments and dancing beats rich in Latin influences, Cabello delivers her most compelling album yet.