“Blink and the fairytale falls apart.”
Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Amy Sussman/Getty Images
Camila Cabello named her third album Family, both to honor her Cuban and Mexican heritage (the record features a mariachi band and Spanish vocals) and the family and friends who support her in life. But there’s one person lurking throughout who’s no longer in her familia: Shawn Mendes. When the pair announced their split in November, Cabello was already mid-album cycle, having released one song and teased another. Now, months later, Family is here, and it’s not quite a breakup album — even though some of the songs were clearly written or edited after they ended things, many are likely about their relationship. Still, like Cabello’s gushy previous album Romance, Family does hold a lot of clues about Cabello and Mendes’s relationship and its downfall.
Now, Cabello hasn’t cornered the lyrical market on this topic. Shortly after the split, Mendes put out the sad-boi song “It’ll Be Okay,” which expressed his apprehensions about the end of the relationship while declaring to Cabello, “I will love you either way.” Then, a few weeks ago, Mendes followed up with “When You’re Gone,” another clear breakup song about “starin’ at a picture of the only girl that matters” — aka Cabello — and missing her “deeply.” (How is he spending Cabello’s release day, you ask? Promoting his upcoming North American tour and minding his business.)
Cabello, meanwhile, has told People her new album is completely true, which is practically an invitation to dive into the lyrics for some theorizing. Let’s get to it.
Él se quiere mudar pa’ Miami y tomarse un tequila con papi
Él se quiere invite a mi party no uh-huh, uh-huh-huh-huh
Él sonríe aunque no entiende nada, yo le puedo dar clases privadas
Y un par de besitos en la cara no uh-huh, uh-huh-huh-huh
Cabello opens Family in Spanish to gossip about her then-boyfriend, since he probably won’t understand it anyway. She sings about a guy who’s eager to spend time in Miami (where she’s from) and spill some tequila with her dad — and who also needs Spanish lessons because he doesn’t get what’s going on half the time. Of course, we know Shawn went to Miami with Cabello during the pandemic, so it sounds like that wasn’t where Shamila’s problems started. And on those Spanish lessons, Mendes did say Cabello joined him in the studio while recording “KESI” with Camilo in 2021, to make sure his pronunciation was correct.
Sometimes I don’t trust the way I feel
On my Instagram talkin’ ’bout “I’m healed”
Worryin’ if I still got sex appeal
Hopin’ that I don’t drive off this hill
When we’re makin’ love, I wanna be there
And I wanna feel you pullin’ my hair
And believe the words you say in my ear
Gotta go outside, I need some air
Cabello has been on a wellness kick on Instagram since her breakup with Mendes, posting about meditating and spending time in nature. On “psychofreak,” she sings about where that’s coming from: feeling like she can’t be present in life. “Tell me that you love me, are you lying?” she sings in the chorus, setting up the doubts about Mendes that take her out of the moment. It’s not just in their relationship, either — “Sorry, couldn’t focus on the movie,” she sings later in the song, possibly referencing some difficulty around her panned starring role in 2021’s Cinderella.
Everybody says they miss the old me
I been on this ride since I was 15
I don’t blame the girls for how it went down, down
But pause — let’s talk about a different breakup for a sec. Cabello told Reuters this song had a reference to her rocky departure from Fifth Harmony, and sure enough, she says she doesn’t have beef with her former bandmates. But also, could that “down” be a reference to their first song without her, “Down”?
You said you hated the ocean, but you’re surfin’ now
I said I’d love you for life, but I just sold our house
We were kids at the start, I guess we’re grown-ups now, mmm
Couldn’t ever imagine even havin’ doubts
But not everything works out
Okay, back to the Shamila split, our topic at hand. On “psychofreak,” Cabello called the couple’s home “a house of cards,” singing, “Blink and the fairytale falls apart.” That sets up the opening lines of “Bam Bam,” the post-breakup single she first released in March. Four tracks into Family, Cabello is finally getting shady — while she’s been posting about being in nature, Mendes has indeed been showing off his beach bod in posts about surfing since the split. But bragging about selling said house? Now there’s a clapback.
You should be here, should be with me tonight
‘Stead you’re working, you’re working all the time
Why am I home alone with your glass of wine?
Oh no, oh no, this is not the life
Cabello first performed this song on her NPR Tiny Desk in October, before she and Mendes announced their breakup, so let’s assume this one was written pre-split. Even so, things sound a little off, with Mendes apparently shrugging off time together with Cabello for work. Sure enough, a source told People after the breakup that work got in the couple’s way — and from the way Cabello sings it, it sounds like Mendes‘s work. (Granted, she may have had high expectations for their relationship, singing about dreams of “traveling the world together” and “making love in the afternoon.” You do both have jobs to do!)
Listen, listen, I get it, I get it
More than anybody, I get it
Life is right now, you tend to forget it
Looking back, you’re gonna regret it
Here it is again: the issues with being present. Except this time, Mendes seems to be the culprit. “La Buena Vida” is the angriest song on Family, and this is where things start to pick up — with a confidant Cabello sassing Mendes about missing her later. Remember their little post-breakup get-together in January? Afterward, a source told Hollywood Life Mendes “thought that being without her would be easier than it is.” Hmm!
Did you get taller? Your hair looks longer
Couple tattoos since I saw ya
Lookin’ at your hands, thinkin’ of my plans for ’em
It’s a bit hard to get the timeline straight on “Quiet,” one of the sexier songs off Family. Cabello opens singing about feeling anxious to see Mendes, before getting to a chorus about kissing and touching her ex in the backseat of a car. Sounds pretty coupled, right? But then, there’s this second verse, when it sounds like we’re at post-breakup status. (Thanks to the stans who noticed that yes, Mendes did get a new tattoo after the split.) Cabello goes on to imagine having Mendes’s hands on her again … before we get right back to the backseat of that car in the chorus. Sure, that’s just how songwriting works, but maybe, just maybe, could she be saying her and Mendes had a little moment together during that reunion?
Hate it when you shut me out
Actin’ like it’s your shit to figure out
Don’t wanna be touched, don’t wanna discuss
I get it, I just
Now I’m in my head about what’s in your head
Come back to bed, can we talk about it?
Noticing a theme? In Cabello’s view, Mendes seems to be shutting her out — and that’s extending to his emotions, which he’s previously sung about having trouble expressing. « Why you hidin’ from me? » Cabello sings. “It’s only makin’ it worse.”
Seeing visions on the ceiling
Drunken kisses, heavy breathing
You’re up against the wall
She’s unbuttoning your jeans and you tell her that you want it all
Contrary to the title, Cabello reveals in this song that she did have some doubts about Mendes — specifically, worrying about him with other girls, which she also sings about on previous song “Hasta Los Dientes.” But Cabello’s imagined scene (which is kinda hot, to those of us of celebrity-crush-on-Shawn-Mendes experience) comes from a real worry, she adds, that Mendes and that other woman had “a real connection.” Still, Mendes leaves her “with no doubt” when they’re together and he’s biting her lip, she sings. As if anyone could in that situation!
Sayin’ you got a flight, need an early night?
No, don’t go yet
Looking back at the first single to Family, which came out while Mendes and Cabello were very much still together back in July 2021, some bubbling issues seem clear. Namely, again, Mendes’s work getting in the way of their relationship. It’s nothing red-flag status … maybe just a yellow one?
And I keep having these thoughts, did we fuck it up or not?
Did we waste two years?
And did you get the space you needed?
Did you realize you don’t need me?
Cabello slows things down on Family‘s closer, a song about the oh-too-relatable feeling of looking for your ex at an event. “I just had this vision of you looking at me different / When you saw this dress,” Cabello sings, setting up her own worries that their breakup was a mistake. She digs further in the second verse, wondering if she threw away two years with Mendes (from around July 2019 to November 2021) — or, worse, if he doesn’t feel the same way about how things ended. « Hey, did you realize you don’t need me? » she echoes at the end of the song. Talk about a cliffhanger! Pass the tissues.