Album Reviews

Camila Cabello – C,XOXO

(Interscope) UK release date: 28 June 2024

Glitchy electronics meld with urban influences and excitable auto-tuned delivery for a surreal hyperpop experience

Camila Cabello - C,XOXO This reviewer knows in their rational mind that numerology is for kooks, and decades are just arbitrary blocks of time, but how else to explain Camila Cabello’s ubiquitous 2010s career compared to her lacklustre 2020s? Was it perhaps an after-effect of Covid-19 that her music started sounding like it was made for an Hispanic animated movie? Either way, with a new label comes a roll of the dice, as C,XOXO melds glitchy electronics with urban influences and Cabello’s excitable auto-tuned delivery for a surreal hyperpop experience.

Lead single I Luv It drew controversy and even mockery for its manic songwriting, but look under the hood and you get interesting imagery in the verses plus some delicious synth bloops during Playboi Carti’s garbled performance. Hot Uptown brings Drake along for the ride, as his tried-and-tested patois mingles with a funky house beat (“grip on your money-maker / hotline ah gon’ bling later / trust me, we ah link later”). Him and Cabello trade lines with ease, and this could have excelled as a summer single had Kendrick Lamar not loudly and repeatedly dissed him for all the world to hear.

This album contains an absolute whirlwind of ideas, such that the distinction between good and bad becomes blurred. The bassy beat of Dade County Dreaming drops out, leaving City GirlsJT rapping over contemplative piano triplets. B.O.A.T.’s hook features Cabello pouring her heart out, voice cracking, over a past relationship before the synth lead from Nightcrawlers’ Push The Feeling On makes its incongruous appearance. Are these successful, coherent musical moments? Not necessarily, but they’re fascinating nonetheless.

Relative normalcy is provided by Twentysomething’s downtempo beat, acoustic guitar and tumultuous lyrics (“about to lose service, I’m in the elevator / ‘if you’re down maybe we could do something later’ / fuck does that mean? I need a translator / I don’t get it, straight up”). Pretty When I Cry throws another curveball with its Balearic rhythm and soulful vocal sample, and as the penultimate track on this self-consciously weird record it features Cabello at her most naturalistic, digging into the hook’s syncopated topline.

If C,XOXO’s creative team (El Guincho, Jasper Harris et al) intended to trigger a resurgence of popularity for the former Fifth Harmony member then they have singularly failed, but they’ve certainly helped Cabello stand out in the crowd of female popstars releasing albums this year.

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Camila Cabello – C,XOXO