Monday, September 16th, 2019

Camila Cabello – Shameless

For us, shamelessness equals… perfectly average?


Joshua Lu: Camila Cabello’s abrasive voice, which has doomed many a ballad from her, works on serrated songs like “Shameless.” For every line that falls flat (“I need you more than I want to” isn’t as desperate as it wants to), there’s another line that Camila nails perfectly, like how “write it on my neck” rings as half request, half command, all threat. It’s a shame most of the song is a build up to that drop; it’s probably reaching for Eilish-level discomfort but instead just sounds like a broken subwoofer.

Kayla Beardslee: Cabello’s artistic vision is, thankfully, present — it’s there in the nuances of her vocals (the entire second verse!), the striking visuals, and especially the lyric’s vulnerable and occasionally unusual turns of phrase. Almost every part of the song tells us that she cares — and yet “Shameless,” like another recent post-5H release, falls flat, its shortcomings serious enough that some will not even find it good. Of course the lead single for a new pop force like Cabello is not the product of a single pen or producer, but the desperate lust behind this song seems genuine enough on her part. The problem comes with the production, which, unlike the lyrics, sounds watered down into gruel. You — and feel free to sub in emoji handclaps here — should not create songs about intensity and vulnerability if the production cannot back up the emotions. Anti-choruses, for example, can be fun, but this is the worst possible place to decide to be too cool for a proper drop — instead of a proper release of emotions, the plain drums and “uh-uh”s just suck tension out of the track. And on the final chorus, when Cabello’s ad-libbing to high heaven and trying her best to get her primal point across, the production remains limp, still insultingly restrained. Where’s a pumped-up Max Martin ending when you need it?

Oliver Maier: An abject disaster, as messy as it is tedious. The gesture at Avril-core alt-rock in the hook is diluted by the tepid guitar tone, then yanked away from a proper climax in favour of the most aggressively underwritten drop I’ve heard all year. The rest of it is the same tired post-Rihanna fare we’ve been hearing all decade, edgy without an edge, insisting on its own dangerous sensuality without establishing any stakes; it’s like a Thank U, Next deep cut being generated in real time. Camila’s tiresome over-emoting abounds, but she continues to evade displaying any personality whatsoever.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: Camila, I love you for how extra you are, but you hereby have permission to do less. There is so much about this song that I should love — lyrics telling a story about sexy, dangerous love; production muscular enough to create a palpable atmosphere; a video which fully realises this concept in beautiful cinematic glory — but I can’t fully enjoy it because of all the weird things you’re doing with your voice! Drink a bottle of water to sound less hoarse, tone down the Auto-Tune to sound less screechy, and, answer me: are you eating lunch and singing at the same time during the post-chorus? “Screaming my lungs out for you” is a great line, but we don’t need you to take it so literally next time!

Alfred Soto: If so many mornings you wake up confused, do you look at Shawn Mendes absorbing your face like a grouper and blame yourself? 

Leah Isobel: Something about the phrasing “right now, I’m shameless” doesn’t sit right. If the lyric was “oh, now I’m shameless,” it might carry some of the shock of stepping outside of yourself and seeing your actions in a different light; “they say I’m shameless” would imply a lack of apology, a devil-may-careitude about one’s lack of self-awareness. “Right now” sacrifices both of those emotional states for a weird nether zone where Camila seems to be shameless because she’s deciding to be, which sort of goes against the dynamic of shame as an internalized external judgment. Purposeful shamelessness is a good summation of Camila’s hammy vocal presence, here and on her other tracks; unfortunately, the lyrics are too bland to really respond to her dramatics.

Michael Hong: The opening guitar creates a sense of urgency that doesn’t really let up until the track fully expands on the chorus, when Camila Cabello shouts “right now, I’m shameless.” While “Never Be the Same” was a goopy lovestruck anthem worthy of a climactic moment in any teen coming-of-age picture, “Shameless” is more mature — it’s a depiction of passionate hunger where the chorus expands to encapsulate you rather than it needing to explode. In particular, Cabello’s processed vocals over the booming beat on the post-chorus are a moment of frenzied desire that feels completely all-consuming. Not only has she found the right sound to make her dramatic storytelling sound high-stakes rather than forced, but the gravelly rasp as she wails “shameless” suggests she’s found her voice as well.

Katherine St Asaph: Like Demi Lovato and Christina Aguilera, Camila Cabello is being pop-culturally castigated for the sin of singing out; for too-muchness, vocal and otherwise; for giving infinite fucks in a culture that prefers giving zero. Also like Demi and Christina, she’s at times struggled to find repertoire to best suit her; her voice becomes either overblown or underused. “Shameless” is the closest she’s gotten, despite being full of problems. Cabello’s pulled-taffy voice can do many things — and indeed, demonstrates on “Shameless” how it can do so very many things — but tough isn’t quite one of them; the lyric pulls the “Not Myself Tonight” punch of only shameless right now; the drop is quick-turnaround knockoff Eilish; the tension, though there, only works if you divorce it from any supposed real-life situation. But it’s still more exciting, more emotionally palpable and charged, than half the charts right now.

Reader average: [2.44] (9 votes)

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2 Responses to “Camila Cabello – Shameless”

  1. Pls review the new song by Ally Brooke (out today). It’s a bop and she’s the only 5H member you haven’t covered yet

  2. Camila Cabello is nothing if not a singer (after all, wasn’t she the only one in Fifth Harmony who *clicked* for Demi Lovato in X Factor?), and she flaunts her skill here, exploiting her full register with belts and all. But at what cost? The guitar hook feels like the producers gave up on an intro and said, “Yea…I don’t what else to do,” only for the instrument to be buried underneath synths in the pre-chorus, and the chorus itself spirals down into BANKS’ “brooding” dark-pop territory stuffed with filler syllables. In short, “Shameless” is a shining moment for Cabello vocally, but the rest of the song can’t catch up with her, sputtering behind her instead of propelling her forward, a rickety foundation on which Cabello attempts to create art that can’t fully come into fruition.