ALBUM REVIEW: Camila Cabello looks to find herself again on ‘C, XOXO’

Camila Cabello C XOXO

Camila Cabello, “C, XOXO.”

Where 2022’s Familia tapped into her Cuban roots and Latin culture, Camila Cabello leans into hip-hop and R&B on her fourth album, C, XOXO.

Camila Cabello

Geffen/Interscope, June 28
Get the album on Amazon Music.

Nearly half of these song feature collaborations with rappers.

The album lacks an obvious through line that connects everything together. Instead, Cabello—working with producers El Guincho (Rosalía, J Balvin) and Jasper Harris (Lil Nas X, Jack Harlow)—experiments with different sounds and moods.

Sometimes experimental and weird, other times more mainstream, the album doesn’t reside in the same territory very long. The random kinetic energy actually makes sense; in the aftermath of a breakup with Shawn Mendes (a relationship chronicled on 2019’s Romance), she’s out there finding her confidence and getting her mojo back. She’s described the album as being about her life right now while expanding her palette.

In her quest trying new things, some work better than others. But there’s something to be said for taking the journey.

“Twenty-somethings dancing while our hearts are bruising,” she sings on the introspective “Twentysomethings,” an acoustic pop ballad with illustrative lyrics that help describe her complicated personal crossroads.

Contrasting that is album opener “I LUV IT,” with Playboi Carti, which requires a few listens to get acclimated. The chorus has tight, choppy vocals with Cabello repeating “I love it” over a trippy synth. Carti’s mumbling adds an extra layer of head scratching. The song is still catchy, though. “Chanel No. 5” keeps up the trip-pop vibe, with a more defined vocal and a dash of Auto-Tune.

Cabello really arrives on pop banger “He Knows,” with Lil Nas X. It has all the ingredients, from a great instrumental to an infectious vocal delivery and a solid feature. The upbeat and rhythmic track is compelling and a great change of pace. Once the singer picks up steam, there’s no stopping her momentum. City Girls show up on “Dade County Dreaming,” a dark and dramatic anthem dedicated to Miami, which sizzles like the Florida sun and is one of the strongest tracks on the album.

Drake gets a double feature on C, XOXO, first on “Hot Uptown,” then on “Uuugly.” The former is a sensual love song about attraction and near misses; the latter a vocal interlude. There are three interludes in all. They’re sometimes narrated while others have music. “I don’t think you’re ready for a love like mine/ I don’t think you’re worthy of my time,” Cabello sings on “Hot Uptown.” “Dream Girls,” an ode to some of Cabello’s heroes, adds The Dream into the mix.

Down the final stretch, the album tones down somewhat. Piano ballad “B.O.A.T.” (Best of All Time) brings heartfelt honesty. Cabello’s vocal has some effects mixed into it and the stark piano is crossed with layers of synth and keyboard sounds and chants. It sounds like an unconventional alt-pop take on a traditional ballad.

Cabello adds one more upbeat pop track in “pretty when I cry” before closing with solemn mid-tempo tune “June Gloom.”

C, XOXO has plenty of imperfections and quirks. it may surprise Camila Cabello fans who’ve come to expect sleek radio-friendly jams from the artist. But even if it’s not an instant crowd-pleaser, It’s a grower. The sound is interesting and inviting, even when things veer into the weirder side.

Follow writer Mike DeWald at

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