Camila Cabello – C,XOXO

An overspill of thoughts, references and styles on an ambitious occassionally haphazard collection...

2024 is the year of the pop girl, it girl, number-one hit girl. Dejection and melancholy are out, hedonism is in. Even a glance at the recent worlds crafted by the likes of Charli xcx and Sabrina Carpenter and Chappell Roan shows the reestablishment of a pop zeitgeist bestowed with sex and colour and the primal urge to have a good time.

Enter Camilla Cabello, the latest popstar craving her moment in 2024. Though well-seasoned in the art of making hits with a roster of bonafide superstars, Cabello seems yet to reach the cult status of her counterparts and this new era has her once again grasping at the fringes.

‘C,XOXO’ is an entirely new canvas for Cabello’s artistry. This fourth studio album has the Latin pop VIP toying with a varied palette of sounds, ditching the foundations of her first three records for something different entirely. Lead single ‘I LUV IT (featuring none other than Playboi Carti, a stark contrast to the team-ups with floppy-haired swooners of the past) developed fruitful discourse, with consideration to the ‘any press is good press’ attitude that rules the plains of pop culture. Cabello spouts nonsense over a tepid club-pop beat; ‘meteor shower, in your power’ wields little literary chops. The introduction of Carti adds nothing to the track. The Opium deity feebly attempts a subpar Future impersonation and leaves much to be desired on an already confused moment. The hyperpop comparisons came in like vultures, though there is little here that pushes the boundaries of pop. Which is, in theory, what hyperpop is.

The entire record actually makes ‘I LUV IT’ more perplexing. Across ‘C,XOXO’, Cabello flits through a Rolodex of contrasting genres, sometimes hitting, occasionally missing. ‘Chanel No.5’ could perhaps be a ballad; the wobbly piano cosplays a hazy night out, Cabello’s AutoTune drenched voice sultry but yearning.

‘Twentysomethings’ leans toward the trendy acoustic guitar-meets-trap-beat, and ‘DREAM GIRLS’ is a welcomed nod to her Latin pop roots. The latter this time infused with Afrocentric rhythms and glossy production. ‘pretty when i cry’ is a lowkey club moment – the maximalist ideals the record originally teased ditched massively for a minimal summery house bop.

It’s a tracklisting that is, at its core, a feast for the ears. Sonically, ‘C,XOXO’ is overflowing with ideas, teeming with a barrage of different synth presets, punchy drum samples and vocal production which is a neat pastiche to the days of PC Music. The tracks where she loses the AutoTune actually boast her well-rounded vocal abilities; more of this rawness should have been deployed, rather than the maxed-out tuning ruling this record with an iron fist. Though Cabello hasn’t quite cultivated a cohesive world within ‘C,XOXO’, the genetic makeup of the record does provide one with a relatively enjoyable experience. It’s an inoffensive pop record by a seasoned popstar simply trying something new.

‘C,XOXO’ isn’t Cabello’s brat moment. A lack of refinement and direction is the burning issue at play here, but she has succeeded in making an inherently fun record. There is no slick prose or Parnassian tendencies in Cabello’s newest effort. Though lyrically she falls flat, the production is solid, shiny and sporadically interesting. But to reach for the status, success and cult-like appeal of her contemporaries, she needs to expand on the half-cooked ideas that skew ‘C,XOXO’. Until then, her contemporaries will remain her superiors. 

7/10

Words: James Mellen

Photo Credit: Rahul Bhatt

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