Camila Cabello‘s Camila is the first major release of the year, and it’s a pretty decent, highly of-the-moment pop album, one that is fluent in pop’s newfound lingua franca of dancehall and reggaeton experiments, flickering guitar licks, gently sloping drops, and piano ballads. Craig Jenkins of Vulture chronicled this easy sort of midtempo in an astute essay published last month, calling for pop to shift itself somewhere else. Camila, if anything, might be this micro-era’s death rattle—an album released at the very top of a year that will be defined by movements we can’t yet see coming.
But that doesn’t mean the album is without its charms, starting, for me, with “Inside Out,” its fifth track, which comes right after the smash hit “Havana.” That song shapes a salsa-inspired piano line into the form of a contemporary pop song, and “Inside Out” more or less attempts to pull the same trick, opening with piano riff that could pass for bossa nova before quickly assuming the vague contours of a dancehall riddim. The original piano figure recedes into the background, becoming just another percussive piece in a production that is really about the interplay between its pitter-patter snares and the open spaces left to be inhabited by Cabello’s vocals. In its fusion of the old-fashioned and the chic, “Inside Out” reminds me of Ariana Grande‘s debut album Yours Truly, one of the great and underrated pop albums of our time, which similarly bridged a gap, in that case between Disney soundtracks and doo-wop and trap music. I hear “Inside Out” as a Yours Truly-style take on, say, Lumidee’s “Never Leave You (Uh Oh),” which I know you definitely think you do not need but I bet with one play will come to realize you want.