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During the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards in August, Camila Cabello was subject to some serious shade from her old band mates Fifth Harmony — both literal and…
During the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards in August, Camila Cabello was subject to some serious shade from her old band mates Fifth Harmony — both literal and figurative.
Although the girl group had been reduced to a quartet when Cabello quit the band eight months earlier, they lined up to perform their hit “Angel” with a fifth silhouette clearly visible onstage. Once the song’s beat kicked in, the darkened figure dramatically fell backwards. It was a stunt that was widely interpreted to be a diss towards Cabello, who releases her debut solo album, “Camila,” on Friday.
The two parties had been giving differing accounts of the split in the months prior to the awards: Fifth Harmony claimed they only found out about Cabello leaving via her management, but in a response on Instagram, Cabello said that was “simply not true.” She also told Billboard: “I was always super open [that] I couldn’t just sing other people’s words [in Fifth Harmony songs] and be totally happy with that.”
It could have been the next big pop beef, but as Elvis Duran, host of Z100’s “Morning Show,” tells The Post, Cabello always strives to take the high road. “She didn’t come out and bad-mouth anyone, or throw any punches — that’s not really what she’s about,” he says.
Instead of stoking the fire, the 20-year-old put all her efforts into launching her solo career, and it’s working. Less than a month after the VMAs, Cabello released “Havana” featuring Young Thug — a salsa-tinged pop track that currently sits at No. 2 on the Billboard Charts, and is a bigger hit than she ever had in Fifth Harmony.
At the Jingle Ball tour in December, her confident performances and strong songs won over critics, while her warm onstage personality was enough to charm even the most militant Fifth Harmony loyalists. Furthermore, “Camila” seems stacked with future hits, and Cabello looks on course to establish herself as America’s newest pop sweetheart in 2018.
Don’t believe us? Just ask Elton John, who heaped praise on her during an interview on Apple’s Beats 1 radio this week: “I think she’s going to have an amazing year because she’s just so gorgeous and so much fun and she’s got a great voice and she has great attitude.”
Cabello’s rise to stardom began with a journey across the Mexican-American border. Although she was born and raised in Cuba, her parents made the decision to emigrate to the US when Cabello was just 6. Cabello’s mother, Sinuhe, told her they were going to Disneyland, and left her father behind (he would move later). Cabello and her mother flew first to Mexico City, and then took a bus across the border with just a backpack of belongings each. After six hours at an immigration checkpoint, they were given the all clear to cross the border, and eventually settled in Miami. Cabello became an American citizen in 2008.
“To this day, her best friend and confidante is her mother,” says Joey Arbagey, executive vice president of A&R at Epic Records, who has worked with Cabello since her Fifth Harmony days. “She loves her family like nobody else, and I think that where she came from made her such a strong person.”
Cabello soon developed a love for music and, after seeing a video of One Direction giving tips on how to audition for “X Factor,” convinced her parents to take her to an audition of her own. Although she was eliminated early on, she was then called back and placed with Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane and Lauren Jauregui with the idea of forming a girl group. Under the guidance of the show’s judges (including pop svengali Simon Cowell), Fifth Harmony formed officially in 2012 when Cabello was still only 15.
The group went on to have hits such as “Worth It” featuring Kid Ink (2015) and “Work From Home” featuring Ty Dolla Sign (2016), but even while Cabello was in Fifth Harmony, she branched out to do solo tracks such as 2015’s duet with Shawn Mendes, “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and 2016’s “Bad Things,” a collaboration with Cleveland rapper Machine Gun Kelly. (In an interview with the New York Times this week, Cabello admitted that it was these solo experiments that caused tension between her and the rest of Fifth Harmony.)
But “Camila” is her first fully-fledged solo work, and it’s been a hard slog to get it right. The first single, “Crying in the Club” (released in May), stalled at No. 47 and prompted a rethink. “‘Crying in the Club’ was not Camila’s absolute first choice of music to release,” admits Arbagey. “We were all very nervous about it.”
After a summer dominated by Latin pop crossovers such as Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” (featuring Justin Bieber) and J Balvin and Willy William’s “Mi Gente” (featuring Beyoncé), the timing couldn’t have been better for Cabello to reference her roots with “Havana.”
The door may have been opened for her a little, but Cabello’s work ethic and perfectionist streak has impressed the songwriters and producers involved on “Camila.”
“I think we have 40,50, sometimes 60 versions of each song on the album,” says Arbagey. “She’s very hard on herself. I know Taylor Swift is known to work very hard, but Camila throws herself into her performances until she feels it’s perfect. That means that sometimes, she’s beyond exhausted, but it doesn’t stop her.”
But Cabello also has something that many pop stars struggle to transmit: a sense of likability that has helped singers such as Adele and “Red”-era Taylor Swift achieve superstar status.
“I’ve definitely met some singers who I didn’t really like as a person, and I haven’t been able to like their music as much,” rising star Grace VanderWaal tells The Post. The two met backstage at an awards show at the end of 2017. “She was the exact opposite. In fact, I think I like her music 500 times more because of how sweet she was.”
“She’s like that with everyone,” adds Duran. “When you meet Camila, she hugs you, she looks you in the eye, she asks how you’re doing. There are so many people who have talent, but are just not likable. Camila is both. She’s always been that way — and I hope she stays that way.”
“Havana” is a bona fide hit, but Camila Cabello’s debut album has many more tracks that could dominate the charts in 2018. Here are three of the standouts.
“Never Be the Same”
This sultry pop track shows Cabello’s vocal range, which goes from a light, high-pitched whisper to something distinctly more soulful in an instant.

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