“I was about to say I’m a hopeless romantic. But you know that,” Camila Cabello told dozens of fans at a Los Angeles studio in November while dressed in blue jeans and an off-the-shoulder top decorated with pearls and gold trim.
Sitting on a stool in front of a sunset-like backdrop with curtains billowing from the ceiling like clouds, Cabello, 22, was there to talk about Romance, her forthcoming sophomore album and the current phase of her life. Though she’s been fascinated with love since she was 6 years old, it wasn’t until recently that Cabello experienced the feeling herself. As she explained it, her debut album, Camila, is about what she vaguely imagined love to be, whereas Romance tells the story of her first serious relationship in excruciating detail.
“There’s a line in one of the songs called ‘Dream of You’ that says, ‘I was not living. I was just writing about it.’ So this time, I’m really living out here, man!” she said at Apple Music’s New Music Daily Presents: Camila Cabello show.
Cabello didn’t specify who the subject of her album is, but one can assume she’s referring to Shawn Mendes, her current boyfriend and her duet partner on Mendes’ single “Señorita.” The couple has been dating since Fourth of July, but they didn’t go public with their relationship until a couple weeks later when they were photographed kissing in San Francisco. The date is the inspiration for Romance’s not-yet-released track “Used to This,” a dreamy love song which she performed for the first time at Saturday’s concert.
“I never liked San Francisco / Never thought it was nothing special / Until you kissed me there,” Cabello sings in the first line of the song.
I was denying feelings for someone because it was scary.
Co-written by Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas O’Connell, “Used to This” is a sonic snapshot of when Cabello and Mendes went from friends to something more.
“The song is about when you’re friends with someone for a really long time and you start dating them and you’re like, ‘Oh my God! This is so weird because you’ve been my friend forever. But I like it, and I could get used to this,’” Cabello said, referencing the hook in the song’s chorus: “It’s going to take me a minute / But I could get used to this.”
Cabello and Mendes’ progression from friends to lovers is a recurring theme in Romance. The transition is also the inspiration for her singles “Liar” and “Shameless,” which she wrote back to back.
“I was denying feelings for someone because it was scary, and that’s the tea,” Cabello said as she described“Shameless,” which she intended to be a sex song à la The Weeknd. “I get scared of falling in love. I’m not this hopeless romantic who’s like. ‘Everything is fun and awesome.’ That shit is scary. ‘Shameless’ is such a good moment for me because, right now, I’m not afraid. I’m done being afraid. Let’s just go for it. I don’t want to be afraid anymore.”
I get scared of falling in love.
Mendes and Cabello met in 2014 when he was transitioning from Vine to music and she was still a member of Fifth Harmony. The two released their first song together, “I Knew What You Did Last Summer,” a year later. Though there have been romance rumors for years, the couple has always maintained that they were just friends—something Cabello makes fun of in “Easy.”
“It’s kind of a joke how much I literally was denying how much I denied liking this person. Ask my mom!” she said. “I would be like. ‘I don’t care that he’s going to be there. So? I’m over it. He’s just my friend.’ And so I would see him and I would be like, ‘Waaah. I like him.’”
But not all of the songs on Romance are about Cabello’s relationship with Mendes. In “First Man,” another unreleased track that she performed for the first time on Saturday, Cabello sings about her father’s concern when she had her first boyfriend at 20 years old.
“I think dads see their daughters as their little girls from when they were 3 years old,” Cabello said, adding that she had to “think of sandwiches” so she could perform the song without crying. “It’s also a Mexican thing. Like a Latin thing. Like when they make jokes like, ‘I’m going to beat him up if he breaks your heart.’”
I’m done being afraid.
Cabello, who was in a relationship with life coach Matthew Hussey at the time, starts the emotional ballad by calming her father’s concerns before telling him that he’s “the first man who really loved me.”
“No, of course, he won’t drink and drive / Can you say ‘bye’ to mom for me? / You’ll like him, he’s really kind / And he’s funny like you sometimes,” Cabello sings in the first seconds of “First Man.”
It’s been a whirlwind few years since Cabello left Fifth Harmony in 2016. After she became the first female artist in three years to debut with a No. 1 album in 2018, Cabello went on to earn her first Grammy nomination the following year.
As much as happened for Cabello in her short career, fans will still recognize her as the same old Camila from before she became one of the most talked-about pop stars. And Saturday’s performance was nothing short of familiar, goofy Camila moments, from her joking that she felt like a Ted Talk speaker because she didn’t know where to stand to her telling the crowd that “60 percent” of her hair wasn’t hers after a fan complimented her long wavy locks.
But perhaps the most Camila moment was when she fell off the stage on her ass as she tried to touch her fans’ hands. (Cabello, who assured that she was “totally fine” in an Instagram video after the concert, called the six-foot fall the “hardest” she’s ever had.) No phones were allowed at the event, but the moment will live on in the memories of the 100 or so fans who were there to witness it and laugh it off with her.
“Actually, this is the one time I regret that there were no phones in here. Because that would’ve been fucking hilarious,” she said. “Well, I love you. I’m not going to do that again. I think you can understand why. Guys, I love you with all my fucking heart.”