Review: Camila Cabello struggles to find identity as a performer

Camila Cabello embarked on her first solo headlining tour, “Never Be the Same Tour,” on April 9. Tomás Mier | Daily Trojan

Nearly a year and a half ago, girl group Fifth Harmony announced in a tweet that Camila Cabello would be leaving to pursue a solo career. Harmonizers, as the group’s fanbase is dubbed, were left teary-eyed and unsure of what was in store for Cabello and 5H’s remaining members.

Now, Fifth Harmony is on hiatus after an unsuccessful album, while Cabello has shaken the charts with her hit song “Havana” and has embarked on her first headlining tour as a solo artist.

Cabello hit the stage Saturday for the first of two nights in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, a venue too small to comfortably accommodate the thousands of Camilizers who packed the room like sardines.

Expectations for her tour were high after she spent weeks promoting it on late night talk shows and performing her best-known solo songs, “Never Be The Same” and “Havana” at international music festivals.

Despite this, Cabello’s performance fell flat in L.A.

Her stage presence was notably hindered by the size of the venue as a horde of dancers rushed onto a stage already too small for Cabello and her four-person band. At times, Cabello was lost among the sea of dancers, many of whom appeared too old to be touring with a young pop singer.

After spending four years performing to upbeat songs flanked by four well-coordinated women, Cabello seemed out of place on stage next to dancers who performed somewhat too aggressively for her musical style.

After each song during the first half of her set, pre-recorded videos of Cabello looking at herself in the mirror, eating on a bed and throwing pillows at the camera played in the background. Her voice in the videos, muffled by the shrieking teens in the audience, told her audience that “everyone has a story.”

Instead of enhancing her performance, the videos interrupted the concert’s flow. Her dark, lingerie-esque attire also did not fit the occasion as she performed songs like “Inside Out” and invited her young audience and the smattering of parents in attendance to sing along.

Cabello performed a stripped cover of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.” The song felt out of place and abrupt, especially performed in front of a sea of teenagers whose music tastes are far more contemporary.

Cabello reframed her song “Something’s Gotta Give,” which many fans thought was about her departure from Fifth Harmony, to refer to gun violence in the country. As she sang lyrics like “If it doesn’t hurt me, why do I still cry?/If it didn’t kill me, then I’m half alive,” images from the March for Our Lives movement materialized on screen. The increased bass levels and Cabello’s emotional singing evoked a sense of urgency as her fans belted out the lyrics and some wiped away tears.

The first half of Cabello’s lackluster performance was redeemed by the second half, which featured two of the best songs on her self-titled debut record: “In The Dark” and “Into It.” With fewer dancers involved in the performance, Cabello focused on singing and engaging with the audience, setting these two songs apart from previous tracks which were plagued by excessive choreography.

Cabello left the stage and returned for an encore after Camilizers chanted “CAMILA! CAMILA!” to bring her back. She performed an unreleased song titled “Sangria Wine,” which stood out as one of her best of the night. The pop beats and Spanish lyrics paired with Latino-inspired dance moves made for a worthy second-to-last song before she concluded the show with a bang with global hit “Havana.”

While Cabello’s album proved to be a surprisingly successful comeback after leaving Fifth Harmony, her solo performing still needs improvement. Cabello still has not solidified her style or identity — her album cover saw her in a flowery dress, but her tour took on a darker portrayal. Only when  Cabello finds a middle-ground between being a chart-topping performer and a moody lyricist can she fully prove herself as a force to be reckoned with.