Just in case you’ve missed their steamy award show performances or flirty social media banter, I’ll break the news: Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes are an item. That’s why the title of Cabello’s sophomore effort, Romance, shouldn’t come as a surprise. Nor should the album’s content — a deep dive into Cabello’s rose-colored vision of love to the tune of anthemic pop. Luckily, however, it isn’t all lovey-dovey as Cabello attempts to capture the dark, thrilling and painful aspects of romance whether you’re in it or not.
“My emotions are naked, they’re taking me out of my mind,” Cabello confesses on “Shameless.” It’s the perfect track to plunge the listener into the emotional landscape of Romance and peek into Cabello’s headspace: nervous, overwhelmed and very much in love. The music itself feels heavy. Guitars close in on Cabello until she absolutely has to spill her feelings.
If “Living Proof” is the aftermath of her shameless confession, the situation worked out in her favor. Cabello is blissful. Thematically, this song is the pickup line, “Did it hurt when you fell from heaven?” on steroids. “Where did you come from baby / and were you sent to save me?” she asks wide-eyed. In the chorus, Cabello’s voice reaches the heavenly heights she sings about, an impressive feat no matter how you feel about her gushing.
Cabello is more clear-headed when fending off a former flame. “So you want me now? That’s funny / ‘Cause you didn’t give a … back then” she sings on the Latin inspired “Should’ve Said It.” It’s a much-needed dose of sass and suitable dance-alone-in-your-room material.
“Feel It Twice” is the flip side of this poor timing. Cabello is sympathetic to the person she fell for “two years” ago, but who only just made up his mind about her now. “I know love is the loneliest place when you fall alone,” she sings from experience, but this time it’s her telling him she “doesn’t feel the same.” As the song builds, her voice echoes until Cabello and the listener both are overwhelmed by her rush of thoughts.
Cabello wholeheartedly dives back into the sweet side of love on “Easy.” The message is straightforward — thinking that you’re “hard to love” until the right person makes it “seem so easy,” but Camila is playful about it. Her lover lists “her crooked teeth” as one of his favorite things about her and she coyly asks, “Anything else?”
The only explicit track on the album, “This Love” finally gives Cabello some edge. “Fuck this love / Get out of my veins,” she cries. It’s the moment romance burns her and it’s refreshing. A subdued ode to the toxic person who plays her “again and again,” Cabello sounds just as passionate in love as in misery, if not more so.
“I’ve known you forever / now I know you better” Cabello winks on “Used to This,” which chronicles Camila’s journey out of the friendzone with Shawn. It’s sweet, but it stands out for feeling real. Cabello grounds her feelings in experiences instead of the abstract. “No, I never liked San Francisco / never thought it was nothin’ special / ‘til you kissed me there” she admits.
But out of all of the touchy-feely songs on Romance, Cabello’s song for her dad, “First Man,” takes the cake for being the mushiest. A piano ballad that follows her going on a date to walking down the aisle, she thanks her dad for being the “first man” to really love her and reassures him about her boyfriend.
Romance is like a box of chocolates, except with each track, you kind of know what you’re going to get. Nearly every song is sweet and chewy, pleasant to listen to with excellent vocals. However, even a theme as compelling as love can get tiring after 14 songs. One can’t help but crave some saltiness, more hurt or melancholy, for balance. This isn’t to dismiss listening to the album altogether persay, just make sure you wait until you’re really in the mood for romance.