On her 2018 self-titled debut, Camila Cabello was a sultry pop singer who didn’t mind looking inward in her music, exploring an emo intimacy with a classic-feeling soulfulness. On Romance, she’s just as much of an open book. This past year the singer ended one relationship and then found herself in a new one — coupled up with Canadian crooner Shawn Mendes — and she uses that narrative as a backdrop to sharpen her writing and deepen her sound.
Cabello explores romance in all its forms: love, lust, and, in her most adventurous moments, the toxicity that can come from it all. She pushes her voice to new places on the opening track, “Shameless,” an explosive pop-rock standout where she piercingly sings about submitting to a consuming obsession: “My emotions are naked, they’re taking me out of my mind.” On the vengeful “Cry For Me,” she snaps and wishes an ex all the worst over Eighties-huge guitar shredding. “Why won’t you cry?” Cabello wails in desperation.
Like her friend Taylor Swift, Cabello has mastered the art of playing fleeting relationship moments for maximum dramatic impact. She finds vulnerability in her pen game on the doo-wop ballad “This Love,” hitting her stride while trying to free herself from an “It’s Complicated” affair. “You know how to fuck me up, then make it okay,” she belts, then adds, “Get out of my veins,” a line that brings to mind the way she likened a crush to shooting heroin on her hit, “Never Be the Same.” Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas drops in to produce and co-write “Used to This,” a hot and haunting ode to her latest relationship. Camilla’s writing is confessional and rich as she breathily sings, “The calluses on your fingers I admire them from a distance/Now they’re on my cheek.”
With “Havana” hit-maker Frank Dukes back onboard, Cabello continues to explore Latin-influenced sounds that reflect her Cuban-Mexican roots. Curiously, “My Oh My” is a digital-only track — maybe it wasn’t completed in time for the hard copy? But it’s the juiciest moment here — a “Havana” sequel where Cabello indulges in an epic, after-hours fling. “He’s only here for one thing, but so am I” she slyly admits. DaBaby’s fresh feature makes it a certified banger. Latina Camila also thrives on the brassy and sassy “Liar.”
Romance includes her smash Mendes collaboration “Señorita,” which fetishizes her own Latinidad as the two sing about a night of ooh la la‘s and dancing amid a “tequila sunrise.” It may be their biggest hit to date, but that cliched lovers’ story feels out of place within an otherwise revelatory album, where she discovers new ways to give her artistry a new edge.