The “Havana” born star has set herself apart from her former 5H group and has made a name of her own. With a Billboard Women in Music Breakthrough Artist award, multiple songs on the Billboard Hot 100, and an impressive social media following, Camila is ready to take over.
In December 2016, Camila Cabello had to endure quite possibly the most momentous change of her music career. The girl group Fifth Harmony had become a worldwide sensation, with two albums and tons of award show performances to prove it. But for Cabello, it wasn’t enough. She longed to spread her wings and take complete creative control, which she couldn’t do inside the perfect image of the girl group. After doing a few singles on her own and gaining an incredible social media following (15.8 million on Instagram!), Cabello decided to officially announce her split from the group.
Considering how huge the group’s fan base is, the reaction to the announcement was immediate and widespread. Some fans were sad that the group would have one less member, while others went on to become solely Camila Cabello fans (“Camilizers”), fully supporting her transition into a solo artist. At first, the remaining group members of Fifth Harmony weren’t too happy, but over time, they too came to terms with Camila’s split. In recent interviews, they’ve said that they support her and hope she’s doing well. Although Camila wishes things could have ended more peacefully, she doesn’t regret her life-changing decision. “I have it in my DNA. The way my mom raised me, it has always been: Don’t settle. Jump and hope you grow wings on the way down.” It was this advice that prompted Cabello to follow what her heart was telling her. In 5H, most of the music was written for them, and they were given dance routines and planned outfits to wear. Camila wanted to be able to use her own ideas to bring a different feel to her music. Fans who were watching her outshine the rest of her 5H members caught onto this early on when she worked on the singles “I Know What You Did Last Summer” with Shawn Mendes (2015) and “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly (2016). Her song with the already popular Canadian singer Mendes peaked at #20 on the Billboard Hot 100, and “Bad Things” reached #1 on the Mainstream Top 40 chart.
After her split from the group, Cabello started to indulge in her newfound solo freedom. She joined Bruno Mars in the summer of 2017 for his 24K Magic World Tour. Considering that this was her first time on tour as a solo artist, she couldn’t have been happier. She followed Bruno Mars for his North American part of the tour, singing her heart out as his opening act at every show. Most recently, her independence really shined when she was a Miami girl in NYC, performing on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest. The crowd was freezing as they endured record-breaking subzero temperatures, but Cabello warmed them up with her sizzling hot single “Havana.” With her female backup dancers looking fierce in suits, and her own ensemble baring a flashy, bejeweled coat and glamorous jumpsuit, Cabello stole the show. She received an extra confidence boost to help out, too: President Barack Obama released his favorite songs of 2017 earlier that day, and “Havana” made the cut! Cabello took to Twitter right before the show to express her gratitude, and that excitement surely transferred onto the big stage as well. Following the exciting NYE performance was another big break for Camila as she found herself in record-breaking territory. Not only is her “Havana” single now President-approved, but it topped Billboard’s Pop Songs chart for a seventh week, “marking the longest reign for a song by a solo female in a lead role in nearly five years.” This is a huge feat considering that she took the title from Taylor Swift, one of the most powerful names in Pop right now. Swift previously held the title with her song, “I Knew You Were Trouble” that also lasted seven weeks in 2013.
Unlike other artists that grew up singing in school plays and musicals, Camila kept her talent hidden for the most part. Her first time performing in front of a crowd was in 2012 when she sang on Season 2 of X-Factor in front of four judges including Simon Cowell. She begged her mom to drive her to the audition site in Greensboro, North Carolina all the way from Miami. It was either a Quinceañero or the audition, and Cabello was so determined to steal the show that she chose it over the Hispanic fifteen-year-old celebration. She wowed judges and received all four yeses with her execution of “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Although she lit up the stage, she wasn’t able to make it through as a solo artist. Instead, she was cut and came back to form the group Fifth Harmony with members Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane, and Lauren Jauregui. The girl group flew through the performances with ease and continued to gain a fan base on the show, making their final place in third not that big of a blow. Simon Cowell, who originally placed the girls together, continued to guide them after X-Factor was over, signing them to his record label Syco Music and fellow X-Factor mentor L.A. Reid’s Epic Records.
Cabello has remained close with Cowell, relying on him as a mentor just as much as before.
“He’s known me since I was 15-years-old… He’s always been super supportive of me and [is] excited about my new music.”
“He said to me, ‘Just make sure that it’s you, because no one can make ‘you’ for you.'” Her first solo album, Camila, released last month in January and took months to cultivate; she really wanted to put her heart into it. “Through trial and error, I’ve written enough finished songs to be able to say ‘Okay, this is me. This sounds like me and only me, and this separates me from what other people are doing,’” she says.
Looks like she took Cowell’s advice; Camila became popular quickly, earning 119,000 equivalent album units in its first week. It also shot to #1 on the Billboard 200 Chart, making Cabello the first woman to bow at #1 with a debut full-length album in three years.
Her three singles from the album (“Havana”, “Never Be the Same”, and “Real Friends”) left “Camilizers” wild with anticipation for Camila, as all were hits. “Havana” became the most notable, peaking at #2 on the charts. It’s her most famous song to date and features rapper Young Thug, playing off of her love for hip hop. Cabello has said that she’d love to work with more hip hop artists in the future, citing Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and Chance the Rapper as favorites that she’d collaborate with, given the chance. She also made non-album single “OMG” with rapper Quavo of Migos, who’s currently one of the most desired in the field. Expect more hip hop collabs in the future, this is clearly an influence that Cabello doesn’t shy away from including in her music.
Another one of her influences is of course, her Cuban heritage, which she takes great pride in. Born in Havana, Cuba, she moved between her birth place and Mexico City for five years before making a permanent move with her family to Miami, Florida. It was here that she truly grew up, but just like her song says “[her] heart is in Havana.” She made sure that there was enough of her “heart” in her new album, intertwining “Caribbean island and Latin” into many of her songs. Spanish songs are huge right now, with 2017 hits like “Despacito” by Daddy Yankee and Luis Fonsi, and “Mi Gente” by J. Balvin and Willy William leaving fire streaks across the charts, and Cabello is overjoyed. “I’ve been listening to [Spanish songs] my whole life. It’s crazy to hear people all over the world sing ‘Despacito,’” Camila says, smiling. She remade “Havana” with reggaeton legend Daddy Yankee, remixing it to be sung mostly in Spanish, minus the chorus. She expresses her goal to continue making Spanish songs, and songs with Latin influences. There may even be a Cabello/Ed Sheeran Spanish song collaboration in the works. “Ed and I really want to do one together… We’re going to make it happen – it’s going to happen!”
Her love of her Cuban background has also caused her love for her fellow Hispanic people to grow as well. She’s been known to take to Twitter to voice her distaste on certain political issues. This was the case when she sat down with Lena Dunham in a Lenny interview, where she boldly stated,
“I’m going to stick up for immigrants, and I’m going to stick up for Hispanic people and their rights.”
She stuck to that promise when she released her music video for “Havana” last October. At the end of the video, the words “This is dedicated to the Dreamers” remain alone in bright white against a black backdrop as the song fades out. This was a clear reference to the DACA Dreamers, a controversial topic under the current administration. Another way she supported her people was through a collaboration she did with Lin-Manuel Miranda on a song called “Almost Like Praying.” This song was a Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria benefit track with proceeds going to The Hispanic Federation’s Unidos Disaster Relief Fund. It seems like no matter what Cabello does concerning her singing voice, her public voice will only get louder, and bare more pride in its tone.
Camila has a lot to keep her busy with her new album that released January 12th, but that doesn’t stop her from looking for other projects to be involved in. She recently announced the female empowerment project YouDoYou, which focuses on positively changing and inspiring young GenZ girls and women. The project was created in collaboration with iHeartMedia, GroupM and Mindshare, and will develop programs with major media publishers to spread their message. Cabello announced the official #YouDoYou hashtag, and explained what the program is all about at iHeartRadio’s Z100 Jingle Ball back in December: “Project YouDoYou is a really cool thing to be a part of because I want that to exist between my fans, between each other and the internet at large. I think that it would make everybody a lot happier…” Cabello explains. She can only go up from here; her first solo album is doing well, and she has tons to look forward to in the future. She’s definitely going to “work, work, work!”
By Selene Rivera