“Couldn’t ever imagine even havin’ doubts / But not everything works out,” sings Camila Cabello on the second single from her third studio album, Familia. In many ways, the record acts as an unexpected sequel to her second LP, Romance, whose lyrics dealt mainly with her highly publicized relationship with fellow pop singer Shawn Mendes. But that’s not at all how Familia has been marketed, despite news of her separation from Mendes last fall, which has already given him plenty of successful breakup singles.
Since the lead single “Don’t Go Yet” release last summer, Cabello’s third album promised a homegrown Latin pop-focused sound. Even with Top 40 radio’s obsession with Latin pop ever since “Despacito” in 2017, Cabello’s knack for hooks while also hitting right where it hurts was always enough to set her apart. Familia, however, just doesn’t hit any of the right notes.
Although the Latin production runs as a constant throughout the album, “Boys Don’t Cry” and “Quiet” sound like they could belong on a different record, or perhaps as melancholic outtakes from the Romance album. Aside from the popular single releases of “Don’t Go Yet” and “Bam Bam”, much of the remaining songs seem incomplete and are not on par with the work of Cabello’s previous albums.
Instead, Cabello simultaneously shades and pines over the end of a relationship, and not in a way that feels humbling or empowering for the perfect pop breakup song. Safe for “Bam Bam”, the lyrics that presumably address the end of her romance with Mendes sooner illicit cringes before applause as she airs dirty laundry on “Boys Don’t Cry” and grapples with loneliness in the form of severely undercooked lyrics on “La Buena Vida”. Even “Everyone at This Party”, the record’s closer that is also most likely about Mendes, sounds like it belongs on the ostensibly melodramatic album that Cabello worked on right after leaving Fifth Harmony that was later scrapped, aptly titled The Hurting. The Healing. The Loving.
The lyrics of the Willow Smith collaboration “Psychofreak” also possess this unfinished quality of the songwriting, which prompts the listener to ponder whether she could have delved deeper into the psyche of this mental health ode to coming of age on the Internet: “House in the hills is a house of cards / Blink and the fairytale falls apart / Sorry, didn’t mean to get so dark / Maybe I’m an alien, Earth is hard”. For a songwriter of Cabello’s caliber, one who has written heart-wrenchingly beautiful ballads like “Consequences” and “First Man”, the lyrics to “Psychofreak” sound unfortunately glib by comparison.
Overall, Familia doesn’t sound quite developed enough to simulate the grade A pop listening experience we know she’s capable of. But despite the negative press that has often been directed towards her in light of her departure from a moderately successful girl group and a high-profile romance that was quickly labeled a publicity stunt, Cabello possesses the talent to transcend it all. It’s just a shame when she succumbs to phoning it in.