Camila Cabello C,XOXO Album Review: Overshadowed by Her Own Taste


In this album review, writer Steffanee Wang unpacks Camila Cabello’s fourth album, C,XOXO and what it says about where Cabello is now and where she’s headed.

In 2021, Camila Cabello put her house in the Hollywood Hills up for sale. It was the closing of her Los Angeles chapter, coinciding with the end of her relationship with longtime boyfriend Shawn Mendes. But in hindsight, it was likely the beginning of another; she was spending more time in her hometown of Miami, the result of which would shape her new fourth studio album C,XOXO. Earlier this year, she emerged, declaring that the dark-haired, radio Cinderella was dead and a new girl — blonde, chaotic, and ready to party — had taken her place. She was rebranding, she said, and this was the real her.

Of course, much has already been said about this “real” Cabello. From the second she unveiled her bleached tresses and the thumping snippets of the album’s first single “I Luv It,” fans (and casual purveyors) accused her of copying the cool-girl visions of left-of-center pop stars like Charli XCX. But the reality of C,XOXO is more confusing and weirder than mere mimicry. With its three-pronged thesis of finally revealing the authentic Camila, being a love-letter Miami, and offering her the chance to build “a world,” it’s an overly ambitious project that more often than not gets in its own way.

Per Cabello, C,XOXO is set in the 305 — famously Miami’s original area code — though you’d be hard-pressed to glimpse that from its credits. It’s executive produced by Spanish producer El Guincho (known for his impeccable work on Rosalía’s Motomami, another pop star rebrand) and Los Angeles producer Jasper Harris (Doja Cat, Kendrick Lamar), and calls on a global host of voices from Atlanta, Los Angeles, London, and more to help build its “big baddie energy vibe,” per the singer. All of that, of course, is fine and on par for a major label record trying to compete with the competitive nature of releasing pop music nowadays. But it is strange that for an album serving as a reintroduction of sorts how much of it she cedes to voices that aren’t her own.

Some of the features make sense, like bringing on Miami’s biggest energy raisers, City Girls. But “Dade County Dreaming,” a bass-buster that starts off like a major club moment with bars from JT and Yung Miami, inexplicably trails off into a muted sad girl meditation that ultimately feels like a misuse of their talents. It’s an odd creative choice, a quality that plagues most of the album’s features. A baffling interlude from Jewish rapper BLP Kosher, the one other Miami artist on the album, is nothing more than a gushing, 46-second fan letter to Cabello, not really saying much about him or the pop star. PinkPantheress’s inconsequential interlude flies by without you even clocking her presence.

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Tags: camila cabello, drake, fifth harmony, music

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