Camila Cabello – ‘C,XOXO’ review: a party girl rebrand – and scrappy, intriguing earworms

Cabello tries a shiny, Auto-Tuned pop sound on for size – and indulges a “rebellious mood” with head-scratching Drake collaborations

Among the current crop of main pop girls, Camila Cabello could be the most underestimated. Yes, she has a couple of hits so ubiquitous they’ve passed two billion streams on Spotify: 2017’s sultry ‘Havana’ featuring Young Thug and 2019’s steamy ‘Señorita’ with Shawn Mendes. And yes, each of her high-charting albums is a fully realised body of work: 2022’s excellent ‘Familia’ saw Cabello explore her Cuban-Mexican roots with hints of emo anguish.

But when Cabello launched her latest era with social content presenting herself as a chaotic party girl, some pop stans reacted with suspicion. “There are comments I see that are like, ‘She so wants to be that girl. She will never be that girl,’” Cabello told Paper in March. She was also accused of copying Charli XCX with this album’s lead single ‘I Luv It’, a honking hyperpop banger which does bear a certain resemblance to Charli’s 2017 song ‘I Got It’. Cabello responded bullishly, telling Paper: “Charli loves me, so everybody can fuck off.”

Neither ‘I Luv It’ nor follow-up single ‘He Knows’, a clattering collab with Lil Nas X, quite signposts the overall vibe of Cabello’s fourth album. Largely co-written with producers El Guincho (Rosalía, FKA twigs) and Jasper Harris (Tate McRae, Doja Cat), ‘C,XOXO’ is a laconic, off-kilter pop record filled with heavily Auto-Tuned vocals inspired by T-Pain. It’s a new sound for Cabello that heightens the music’s intriguing, trippy sheen.

Throughout, her lyrics pivot between pithy and revealing. When Cabello brands herself a “cute girl with a sick mind” on ‘Chanel No.5’, it feels like a craven attempt to generate a meme. The balmy, guitar-led ‘Twentysomethings’ cuts deeper as Cabello captures the way we use big nights out to solve – or at least distract from – relationship problems. “I just wanna have a good night, struggling all my life,” she sings forlornly. “Want you to hold me tight and tell me that we’re alright.”


The album’s slightly scrappy quality sounds deliberate: the spacey PinkPantheress collaboration ‘PinkXOXO’ lasts, appropriately, all of 55 seconds. But there are also plenty of intriguing rap-influenced pop cuts. ‘June Gloom’ sounds a bit like Lana Del Rey doing hyperpop; ‘Dream-Girls’ celebrates female friendship over a dayglo reggaeton beat and ‘Dade County Dreaming’ is blippy hip-hop featuring influential Miami duo City Girls.

There’s another nod to Cabello’s hometown on ‘B.O.A.T.’, an emo breakup song featuring an incongruous/ingenious sample from Pitbull’s 2009 party anthem ‘Hotel Room Service’. As Cabello sings about an ex who was “the best of all time”, the song’s giddy synth riff – itself a sample from Nightcrawlers’ 1992 house classic ‘Push The Feeling On’ – supplies a haunting reminder of happier times.


Only two mid-album Drake collaborations evince a slight blip in confidence. The hypnotic dancehall of ‘Hot Uptown’ belongs on a different album and following track ‘Uuugly’ is a strange two-minute coda on which Drizzy sings but Cabello only features briefly. It’s almost as though she’s outsourced a portion of the album to another, even more bankable artist.

Cabello explained this strange creative choice when she told Billboard: “I just want to hear Drake on my own album. I love that for me – it’s like that rebellious mood. Who says I can’t do that?” No one, evidently, but the timing feels off. Given the collective eye roll that greeted the rap titan’s tired 2023 album ‘For All The Dogs’ and the reputational damage caused by his ongoing feud with Kendrick Lamar, this “rebellious mood” brings the wrong kind of chaotic energy to Cabello’s project.

Still, whether you think Cabello is “that girl” or not, there’s no denying that ‘C,XOXO’ is packed with quirky earworms: she even blends emo and reggaeton on the brilliant, melancholy club banger ‘Pretty When I Cry’. Some of 2024’s most anticipated pop albums have sunk pretty fast after hyped roll-outs; this one deserves to keep bubbling to the surface for months to come.


Album art for Camila Cabello’s ‘C,XOXO’

  • Release date: June 28, 2024
  • Record label: Geffen/Interscope

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