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Track Review

Leaving anything prematurely—especially while facing opposition—is no easy task. But that's exactly the task singer Camila Cabello has faced as she's walked away from the group that propelled her to fame: Fifth Harmony.

Some expected Cabello to crash and burn on her own. But her second big hit (following her collaboration with Machine Gun Kelly on "Bad Things") indicates she may just make good on her dream of going it alone.

But does making good on her dream translate into similarly good messages for her fans on her latest single, "Havana"?

A Mysterious "Malo" Man

"Havana" features guest rapper Young Thug, and this piano-fueled, Latin music-infused pop song seeks to draw listeners in with a tale of forbidden love, fond memories and a message (in the song's video) that's "dedicated to the dreamers."

"Havana" opens with Cabello reminiscing about her beloved Cuban city of Havana (where she herself was born and lived until she was 7). She sings "Half of my heart is in Havana." Why? It's where she met a bad boy who stole at least half of her heart, a guy her father (who "took me back to East Atlanta") isn't a bit fond of.

Cabello says of this mysterious man, "He didn't walk up with that, 'How you doin'?" Nope. Not this guy. He's a lot more suave than that: "He said, 'There's a lot of girls I can do with/But I can't do without you.'"

Cue the swooning.

And then a brief, intense (emotional? physical?) encounter: "I knew him forever in a minute/That summer night in June/ … I loved him when I left him." No wonder the next line describes her father's displeasure: "And Papa says he got malo [bad] in him."

If it's perhaps unclear whether Cabello's verse alludes to sexual encounter, there's no such uncertainty with Young Thug's crude contribution to this song: "Bump on her bumper like a traffic jam," he brags. And then he hints that the woman he's singing about isn't someone he's in love with, but rather a prostitute: "Hey, I was quick to pay that girl like Uncle Sam/Back it on me, shawty cravin' on me." And no price is too great, he goes on, for what she's offering: "If it cost a million, that's me."

Telenovela Drama

The video is a surprisingly complicated affair, weaving together three separate-but-related stories en route to a more romantic, less-sexual ending than perhaps we hear in the song itself.

One storyline involves Camila playing the part of a wronged woman in a Spanish-style telenovela. (That part of the video features a shirtless man in bed with two women, one of whom is wearing sheer lingerie.) The second story features a mousy, make-up free version of Camila who dreams of the kind of passionate love she sees on TV. When her grandmother (played by a bearded man, à la Tyler Perry) encourages her to go out, she does so, traipsing to an old theater where she watches a romance starring … you guessed it, the third version of Camila. This one stops and tells her to "write her own story."

By video's end, there's a meet-cute between mousy Camila and a guy on a bike. We also see some sultry, suggestive salsa dancing, as well as images of movie-star Camila in a revealing dress.

Of Dreams and Dreamers

The video concludes with the message mentioned above, "Dedicated to the Dreamers." It's a message that can be interpreted generically as a feel-good end to this video's feel-good (if sometimes steamy) story.

But it also has a more specific, political meaning as well. After performing the song on the Today show, Cabela said that the "dreamers" she's talking about are the undocumented immigrants brought to America as children by their parents. That hot-button issue adds another layer to the overlapping narratives already found in the song and video.

In the end, the song and video feature some moments of romance and emphasize pursuing our dreams. But those themes also get paired with an allusion to a night of passion as well as a man bragging about paying a prostitute a lot of money for what she can offer him.

And whether you're in Havana or anywhere else, that's not the kind of story sweet dreams are made of.

Positive Elements

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Reached No. 2.

Record Label

Epic, Syco




September 8, 2017

On Video

Year Published


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