Monday, September 18th, 2017

Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug – Havana

East Atlanta affair…


Micha Cavaseno: Young Thug plus Latin grooves has typically been an automatic victory lap, so it’s not going to be any surprise that Jeff in Denis O’Bell mode is going to be satisfying. What’s interesting is that in this chunky affair, Cabello actually manages to feel a sense of restraint and avoid indulging herself far too much. Yet at the same time, perhaps a more energetic vocal that didn’t feel far too withdrawn might’ve hit just the sweet spot.

Hannah Jocelyn: It took a while for this song to stick with me; I couldn’t get past the piano hook, which isn’t a sample but sounds like one. The rest of the beat feels watered down from the sultry jam it could have been, though the piano break when Young Thug comes on and does his thing is a cool little moment. Camila’s performance even has some interesting quirks, but not even a crack team with Jeffery, Ali Tamposi, Frank Dukes, Starrah, Pharrell, and Trumpet Flourish can make it into a bona fide banger.

Nortey Dowuona: Nice salsa keys but awkward as heck bass and drums, while Camila is really not making a good case for her solo career. Young Thug is sadly subdued and caged in the beat. Meanwhile, Camila stuffs the song too full with all of her scratchy-voice cooing.

Andy Hutchins: I liked these keys better on “Dedication to My Ex” and the “oh na na”s better on “What’s My Name,” but credit is due to the dearly departed member of Fifth Harmony for at least mostly trying to stop doing entire scales every bar. Trouble is, that moderation makes her sound a bit too much like Selena Gomez, and the instrumental is far too busy and layered for someone to stand out while riding it — even Cabello, who tries her typical tricks in the pre-hook, and Thugger, who has the good sense to not stray too far from the undulations in his verse.

Katherine St Asaph: If I can stop thinking this is “Same Old Love” pitched at Lana Del Rey (enough writers contributed enough parts that some of it might be), this is pleasant reheated drama. Only problem is, if half of her heart’s in Havana, so is half of her chorus.

Jonathan Bradley: Camila Cabello was born in Cuba. Havana is the capital of Cuba; the name is an anglicized version of what might be a hispanicized recasting of a Taino name. Young Thug was born in Atlanta, the capital of the US state of Georgia. Atlanta is an anglicized version of what is ultimately a Greek name. “Havana” has a rolling Latin piano riff submerged in the murk that characterizes Southern US hip-hop in 2017; you might imagine Metro Boomin remixing “Havana” and making it even gloomier and more dissociative. If that were to happen, perhaps Young Thug could contribute another, more memorable verse. “Havana,” as this song demonstrates obsessively, sounds a lot like “Atlanta,” even though there is little linguistic link between the two. Is it fun to join the dots like this? Is it fun listening to the dots being joined?

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Camila is Cuban and Young Thug’s an ATLien, sure, but these associations that “Havana” wants us to make are shallow and cipherous, distractions meant to lend credence to a song that fails to capitalize on the strengths of either vocalist. For all the clamorous uproar that occurs whenever Camila decides to sing, one would hope that there would be just as much disdain for a relatively reserved approach that’s worse than her most ostentatious moments. But no, many will praise her restraint here or feel indifferent to it, failing to recognize that she needn’t restrain her vocalizing for a song that’s ostensibly less suitable for her histrionics. Like Young Thug a few years ago, Camila’s simply in the process of discovering how to best use her voice, especially now that she’s flying solo. But she overshoots (er, undershoots?) here, sounding more bored than ever, stymieing the chemistry she could have had with Young Thug. Even then, it’s clear that Jeffery could’ve been more unhinged too — just imagine the intense back-and-forth that could’ve been present between the two if they engaged in varying degrees of unpredictable vocal delivery. The tension that occupies the interstitial space between salsa dancers? That’s not here. Which means that there’s no heat able to radiate outward to all of Camila and Thugger’s onlookers.

Alfred Soto: No fan, I succumbed without fuss to the “I Feel the Earth Move” lilt of the piano and Camila Cabello’s ease with the verse melody. There’s nothing Havana-esque about “Havana” despite the singer’s ethnicity, though, unless a trumpet solo = Latin.  And there’s no fucking reason why Young Thug should share space except for streaming hits.

Josh Love: This is a perfectly fine song with a reliable trad-Latin melody but it could have been so much more if Thugger had been given room to breathe. Not sure why you call him in to do a feature that any number of anonymous artists could have delivered. It’s like the old adage about buying a Ferrari and then only using it for trips to the grocery store.

Julian Axelrod: The only reason “Havana” isn’t a Bond theme is because there hasn’t been a Bond film worthy of a Young Thug verse. Isn’t it wild how we go on for months pretending songs like “Pillowtalk” are sexy and then something like this, which finds the exact musical midpoint between 1966 and 2006, comes out? What a shame.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: Certainly her strongest solo single — a mid-range cooing instead of a blaring Camila is definitely more appealing — but the motionlessness of its structure takes a lot of strength from both her vocal and the rolling Young Thug verse. Still, that danzón/chachachá piano (of course, that unmistakable i-VI-V chord progression echoing decades of Cuban music) and Frank Dukes’s clattery beat show a step forward for Cabello. I do want more of this, but better. 

Reader average: [8] (12 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

3 Responses to “Camila Cabello ft. Young Thug – Havana”

  1. like why would you bring up the Havana/East Atlanta contrast and then not do anything with it?

    (On Today in Pedantic: the Cuban-American community here is more scattered than the Mexican-origin / Guatemalan-origin community, but it’s not really in East Atlanta, which is more where all the current gentrification action is [although I’m behind the times and it’s really where all the gentrification action was 5-10 years ago]. I believe there’s still a Cuban-American state rep in Gwinnett County, so maybe this song would’ve been better if Cabello had worked with Migos.)

  2. Is this where I mention the first time I heard Young Thug over latin-american inspired production was actually a Migos song for the like, umpteenth time? (Yes it is)

  3. The new version with Daddy Yankee is so much more fun: