Camila Cabello, Romance review: A sweet if flawed demonstration of artistic identity

Spotify announced this week that the most streamed track of 2019 was “Señorita”, the sweltering summer single from Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes, an unbearably tactile real-life couple who have been anointed the Britney and JT of the Gen-Y set. For Cabello, alumni of the defunct girl group Fifth Harmony, it marked her second Latin-tinged smash after 2017’s “Havana”.

But Cabello has also faced a very modern conundrum: how do you translate two Spotify-dominating singles into a distinct musical identity? Particularly when the bulk of your recent press, whether deliberate or not, has focused on your hyper-visible relationship? Romance, Cabello’s second solo album, doesn’t solve the mystery, but it’s at least a marked improvement on the pick’n’mix anonymity of her 2018 debut. That record, Camila, was cute if inconsequential, pulling from so many sonic trends that it was a rather faceless introduction to Camila Cabello the solo artist.

Even if not everything on Romance works, there is an obvious through line connecting the majority of its tracks – Cabello is sweetly ebullient as she repeatedly returns to feelings of being flush in first love. Convenient from a PR angle, absolutely, but also played so sincerely that it’s not particularly bothersome.

“Please say you dream of me, too,” she sings in album standout “Dream of You”, her voice cracking into an airy plea. Single “Living Proof” is a wonderful flutter of a number, full of heady high notes as she compares finding love to finding religion. It’s in these vulnerable mid-tempo moments that Cabello feels most at home, though that doesn’t mean there aren’t bops here, too. “My Oh My” sounds like it was recorded in a crypt on Halloween, Cabello reducing her pitch to a spooky timbre as she talks of a naughty boyfriend who “comes alive at midnight”. The equally raspy “Cry for Me” is essentially Imogen Heap meets Carlos Santana, complete with an electric guitar solo that sounds directly lifted from the latter’s Rob Thomas collaboration “Smooth”. It’s one of the album’s more unconventional tracks. 

Whether Cabello has fully come into her own just yet, however, is a question Romance struggles to answer. Occasionally overproduced, it has a tendency to flatten her voice with unnecessary processing, morphing it too often into a gloopy gurgle. And a few too many songs feel like carbon copies of other people’s, particularly “This Love”, a thinly-veiled pastiche of Rihanna’s “Love on the Brain” that never takes off in the same way. 

But there’s something here. When allowed room to breathe, Cabello’s voice is wonderfully elastic, as pleasurable when it’s low and gravelly as it is when it’s high and pleading. And Romance feels like an album with a clear story, vision and personality at its centre, even if it’s been tempered somewhat by trends and streaming expectations. 

Considering how vulnerable Cabello has become to being swallowed whole by her personal life, it’s a relief. It feels like the throwing down of a gauntlet, Cabello determined to wear her heart on her sleeve in the studio as well as in paparazzi photos.

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Fashion & Style

Model Iman to receive prestigious Franca Sozzani Award in recognition of artistic and humanitarian work

Model Iman is to receive the third Franca Sozzani Award in Venice later this month.

WWD reports the Somali-American model and entrepreneur will be the recipient of the award which recognises women who have made a difference in their artistic work and social commitments.

The award was established by the family of the late Vogue Italia editor-in-chief Franca Sozzani in 2017. Actor Julianne Moore was the award’s first recipient, followed by actor and philanthropist Salma Hayek last year.

Speaking of Iman’s award win, Sozzani’s son, photographer and film director Francesco Carrozzini, said: “Iman’s work has disrupted the fashion industry in a way similar to Franca’s: bold, innovative and inclusive.

“Using her platform to the best of its potential, Iman’s work from lobbying the CFDA for an increase of diversity on the runway to impactful humanitarian work, displays her true passion and focus. We are truly honoured for her to accept the Franca Sozzani Award.”

During the 1970s and 1980s, Iman became internationally known as one of the most successful supermodels of her generation, modelling for fashion houses including Versace, Donna Karan, and Calvin Klein.

Describe by Yves Saint Laurent as his “dream woman”, the model went onto launch her own inclusive cosmetics range, IMAN Cosmetics, in 1994 and starred in several films including Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, No Way Out, and Lies of The Twins.

Close up of model, Iman, wearing Mary McFadden’s head and body wrap of gold macrame and non-jewel jewels. (Getty Images)

Iman, who is the widow of the late singer David Bowie, has dedicated much of her life to humanitarian work for organisations such as The Children’s Defense Fund, Action Against Hunger and the Raise Hope For Congo campaign.

In 2010, the model received the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s Fashion Icon Award dressed in a strapless black couture Giambattista Valli gown.

In 2013, the model teamed up with former model agent Bethann Hardison and supermodel Naomi Campbell to launch a campaign to increase diversity on the catwalk in the fashion industry.

The “Diversity Coalition” identified several fashion houses which the trio said “consistently use one or no models of colour” in their runway shows including Marc Jacobs, Victoria Beckham, and Rodarte.

“The absence of people of colour on the runways and photography reinforces to our young girls that they’re not beautiful enough, that they’re not acceptable enough,” Iman told CNN at the time.  

As per tradition, the Franca Sozzani Award will be presented ahead of the Venice International Film Festival on 27 August at Sozzani’s favorite Belmond Hotel Cipriani – a five-star hotel on Venice’s Giudecca island.

Franca Sozzani and Francesco Carrozzini attend the premiere of ‘Franca: Chaos And Creation’ during the 73rd Venice Film Festival at Sala Giardino on September 2, 2016 in Venice, Italy. (Getty Images)

An event in honour of the late editor will be hosted by Sozzani’s son, photographer and film director Francesco Carrozzini, and his wife Bee Shaffer, who is the daughter of US Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour.

“My mother adored movies,” Carrozzini told attendees at the ceremony last year.

“But what she truly was passionate about was supporting strong, unconventional, committed women, who didn’t fear to take action with courage and drive and put themselves out there trying to get things changed.”

Anna Wintour and Franca Sozzani attend the dinner honouring Bottega Veneta’s Tomas Maier 15th anniversary as Creative Director during Milan Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2017 on September 24, 2016 in Milan, Italy. (Getty Images)

Sozzani, who was widely recognised as the “Lady of Fashion”, died of lung cancer in 2016.

The editor, who was also the editorial director of Condé Nast Italy, received the Legion of Honour in 2012 and was appointed to the position of ambassador for the Fashion 4 Development programme within the United Nations (UN) which works to encourage fashion leads to develop sustainable development initiatives.

The journalist was also a UN Ambassador Against Hunger and received the first Swarovski Award for Positive Change weeks before her death in London which recognised her commitment to diversity and efforts to fundraise for and international charities.

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