Camila Cabello seems to be making all the right moves since abruptly leaving Fifth Harmony in 2016 – but does she have what it takes to sustain a solo career?
Most people remember Geri Halliwell’s highly publicized departure from the Spice Girls in 1998, but how many outside of the “Girl Power” bubble remember her subsequent solo debut album less than a year later that struggled to go Gold in North America?
Camila Cabello is no Geri Halliwell and Fifth Harmony are by no means the Spice Girls, but there are some parallels between the two singers and groups. Cabello, much like Halliwell did with the Spice Girls, left Fifth Harmony after the group’s sophomore album and right in the middle of their run as a mainstream pop powerhouse in 2016.
It was a bold move that wasn’t as irrational as one might’ve thought when it was first announced. Cabello had long been the standout star of Fifth Harmony and it was initially believed she left the group partly because of issues she had with the creative process, which included concerns over the sexualization of her image — particularly at such a young age.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, however, Cabello also explained that her solo ambitions created tension within the group, especially after she collaborated on a song with Shawn Mendes in 2015. Her ongoing musical excursions outside Fifth Harmony made the other members shut her out and “it became clear that it was not possible to do solo stuff and be in the group at the same time,” Cabello told the Times.
Whatever the real story behind her departure was, Cabello left in a hurry — but her path to solo stardom wasn’t as simple as dropping an album immediately after leaving. Like a lot of singers trying to get on, she made her rounds appearing on songs with more seasoned artists like Machine Gun Kelly and Major Lazer to create a buzz and prove that she could stand on her own two feet without Fifth Harmony.
Establishing her image and voice as a solo entity, Cabello released the first single off her debut album when she tagged Young Thug for a feature on “Havana.” The song was an immediate hit and landed her the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 with over 530-million streams on Spotify. Its infectiously Latin flavour stayed true to her Cuban roots and the song wasn’t some kind of sex romp that relied solely on Cabello dressing proactively to move units.
The subsequent music video added to Cabello’s likeability and overall creative direction. She played a nerdy young dreamer with YouTube sensation Lele Pons as her sister and LeJuan James hilariously cast as her grandmother. The visual counterpart has done almost as well as the song itself with over 420-million views and counting on YouTube since its release last October.
The release of her album, aptly titled Camila, this January was met with a mostly warm reception by fans and critics alike. Minimalizing big name features outside of Thug’s appearance on “Havana,” Cabello seamlessly blends her Latin music roots in an appealing pop package with elements of hip-hop and R&B.
Cabello’s ascension into the mainstream has been a long time coming and her solo career has major potential to eclipse her success as a member of Fifth Harmony. While she’s still a far cry from superstars from successful groups who went solo like Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake, Cabello is carving her own path in the music industry and one that hasn’t followed the traditional formula of many of her pop peers. If she can stay the course and continue to showcase a quality output, she just might have what it takes to sustain a lengthy shelf life in the pop game.
Words by Patrick Cwiklinski – Learn more about our favourite albums, here.
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