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Camila Cabello’s ‘Romance’ is one of 2019’s best pop albums

music review

<p>Camila Cabello’s sophomore album “Romance” focuses on — you guessed it — romance and relationships.</p>

Camila Cabello’s sophomore album “Romance” focuses on — you guessed it — romance and relationships.

With her sophomore album “Romance,” Camila Cabello has provided a fantastically cohesive, entertaining work that is a thrill from start to finish. Throughout each song, Cabello focuses on the LP’s titular theme, and in doing so, she neatly ties the album together with a bow. But more importantly, she has crafted a wonderful photo album of romance at each of its stages, be it the first tinge of desire or the throes of a breakup. 

In the first half of “Romance,” Camila offers up bop after bop. The progression begins with pre-released track “Shameless.” Sent out to fans as a double release alongside the album’s first single, “Liar,” the song is an ode to being public with a relationship. Besides being an obvious (but nevertheless excellent) reference to a certain relationship with Shawn Mendes, the song provides an exceptional opener for “Romance,” both in its general upbeat attitude and its relevance to the album’s eponymous theme. 

Interestingly enough, the companion to “Shameless” takes a different approach toward openness — “Liar” addresses the complications of falling for somebody. This song is immediately preceded by the smash summer chart-topper “Señorita,” which offers up a barrage of sultry quips between Cabello and duet partner Shawn Mendes. Although the song may fall a little flat after months of radio overexposure, “Señorita” is at its heart a truly stellar track. (It did blow up for a reason.)

If you’re searching for another future single to follow in the path of “Señorita,” look no further than “My Oh My,” Camila’s collaboration with the red-hot rapper DaBaby. “My Oh My” is perhaps the best of many strong songs on the album. It’s wilding entertaining, featuring a sing-along chorus, terrific backing vocals and a short but dynamite verse by DaBaby. 

Other songs on “Romance” range from the danceable to the hard-hitting. On tracks two and three, “Living Proof” and “Should’ve Said It” respectively, Camila serves listeners the upper reaches of her vocal range to great effect. To finish up the first half of “Romance,” Cabello turns to more experimental sounds. The result is the wonderfully anxiety-inducing “Bad Kind of Butterflies.” Providing an uneasy deluge of synths and drums, the song seems to be heavily influenced by the late 2010s Jack Antonoff sound. 

The second half of “Romance” leans more into Camila’s penchant for slower songs, beginning with the phenomenal “Easy.” Released as a single before the album’s launch, “Easy” is provocative yet easy to digest, gradually crescendoing throughout its runtime before ultimately coming to a triumphant conclusion. 

Other standouts include the explicit “This Love,” which follows in the passionate footsteps of identically-named songs by Taylor Swift and Maroon 5, and “Used To This,” a track produced by none other than Finneas O’Connell, the brother of and producer for Billie Eilish. Featuring a train horn, ticking clocks and gentle rattling, the song’s production is weird and fantastic at the same time. Pair this with some of the most personal lyrics on the album and you have another contender for the album’s best song. 

The album finishes with the emotional “First Man.” Despite what you’d expect from a song with its title, “First Man” is actually a tribute to Cabello’s father. The first song she wrote for the album, it’s also the most touching, making it a perfect closer for album so heavily focused on love. 

Despite being such a sensational work of art, “Romance” is unfortunately shrouded by discussion about her relationship with Shawn Mendes. Her heavily publicized openness with her “Señorita” duet partner, often discredited as nothing more than a PR stunt, has taken much flak for its overt nature. Never since “Red”-era Taylor Swift has an artist’s work been so overshadowed by talk of her relationships. 

Although Camila does lean into this persona with her song “Shameless,” it would be flat-out incorrect to say that she invites such commentaries about her partnership with Shawn, especially given that such talk began before that song was even made public. Hopefully, the album will, like “Red,” gradually overcome the drama surrounding its inspiration and be seen more for its own artistic merit. Either way, “Romance” is an outstanding piece of work that surely is one of the best pop creations of the year.