The first sign that a new era had arrived was Camila Cabello’s platinum blonde locks. Then came “I LUV IT,” the shake-up of a lead single for the Miami native’s fourth studio album—loud, brash, and diamond-hard, with a hook that interpolates a 2009 Gucci Mane classic (“Lemonade”) and an expressionistic verse from Playboi Carti. Speaking to Apple Music’s Zane Lowe, the 27-year-old singer emphasizes C,XOXO’s most crucial evolution: For the first time in her career, the songwriting feels like her own. “Letting go of the safety net of other co-writers in the room allowed for there to be more space for me to hear my own voice,” she tells Lowe. “When you are younger, you feel like you are looking for other people to point out the way a little bit more, and that voice inside you, you’re listening to, but you don’t totally trust. I think as I’ve gotten older, I’m like, you know what? I’m just going to listen to myself. I’m comfortable being, like, it’s on me today, and whether it fails or succeeds, I can trust myself to do it.” Call it a vibe shift or a reintroduction or, as Cabello cheekily called C,XOXO, her “hyper-femme villain arc,” with dreamy production from Spain’s El Guincho. There are odes to her tropical hometown, as she recruits City Girls to twerk out the sunroof on Collins Avenue for “Dade County Dreaming.” She’s covered in glitter and dressed for revenge on “pretty when i cry” and tempting an ex on the scorching “HOT UPTOWN,” which features Drake in peak Honestly, Nevermind form. Things get deeper on moody, wispy tracks like “June Gloom” and “Twentysomethings,” downcast odes to messy, complicated relationships: “Twentysomethings, gotta have a sense of humor/When it comes to us/Don’t know what the fuck I’m doing,” she coos on the latter. But it’s the gorgeous and strange “Chanel No.5” that best represents Cabello as a songwriter. It’s an ethereal experiment she describes as having “pop melodies, but with rap structure,” with twinkly piano and lyrical nods to Haruki Murakami and Quentin Tarantino, spritzes of perfume, and chipped nail polish. “It is the thesis statement for the album,” she tells Lowe. “I was like, this is literally the voice of C,XOXO. It’s playful. She’s in control. She’s putting on her lip gloss. She’s toying with this guy. She’s magical. She’s sensitive.”

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