After scoring radio hits with Worth It and Work from Home, it looked like Fifth Harmony had finally found their footing among pop’s crème dela crème. That all began to unravel when former member Camilla Cabello opted to leave at the end of 2016, throwing the future of the band into turmoil with rumours of a split expected to follow shortly after.
Despite all the rumours and naysayers, of which there still are many, the four remaining ladies of Fifth Harmony, Lauren, Dinah-Jane, Normani and Ally continued to power through. In what was a major risk whichever way you looked at it, the girls released their self-titled third studio album only 9 months after Cabello’s departure. And do you know what? They may have just pulled off one of the biggest surprises in pop music this year by delivering their strongest and most cohesive body of work to date.
One thing is clear with this album, the girls have finally found what their sound is. RnB tinged pop is where all four voices excel most and they have smartly decided to stay firmly in this lane for the 10-track album. Opener Down may have failed to have the same success as Work from Home, but with Lauren’s husky vocal, Gucci Mane’s perfectly timed verse and the hypnotic single word chorus, the song acts as a brilliant introduction to the rest of the album.
New single He Like That is a slick piece of dancehall infused-pop with Normani oozing sex appeal as she sings “Pumps in the bump, pumps in the bump / He like the girls with the pumps in the bump”. With it’s the exceptional music video, the band’s best to date, this song is a perfect choice for the second single.
Other highlights include Sauced Up, a head-nodding ode to falling for a guy and being “caught up in the sauce”. It’s the closest song that comes to capturing the fierce attitude of Work from Home, without sounding like a carbon copy. Deliver feels like a 90s throwback with a modern twist. While Lonely Night sees Dinah-Jane, who has criminally been relegated to adlibs in the past, take the lead with the girls pushing their no-time-for-a-fuck-boy M.O against a finger snapping beat.
Something that has been missing from their previous albums, and is in hefty supply this time round, is a feeling of vocal unity among the girls, i.e. harmony. It’s something many fans haven’t seen or heard since their humble beginnings on The X Factor USA in 2012. But the absolutely lush Don’t Say You Love Me is a definite triumph that sees all four girls given their much deserved moment to shine.
Though the album commits to the same RnB Pop sound throughout, things get dark with the trap leaning banger Angel, produced by Skrillex and Poo Bear. With gritty production and lyrics like “The original me wouldn’t fuck with ya, and I was beginning to fuck with ya”, the song is a punchy kiss-off to – you guessed it- fuck boys. Also, that instrumental breakdown is begging for a killer dance routine if and when it’s performed live.
Messy is a perfectly serviceable mid-tempo number, which samples Shaggy’s He Wasn’t Me and has all the ingredients to become a strong fan favourite over time. Album closer Bridges sees the girls calling for unity and love during these divisive times. It can be seen as an olive branch to Cabello with the girls not wanting to hold on to grudges. But after the group’s VMA performance, which saw a mystery fifth member leap off the stage as the girls stood together united, it’s probably not an olive branch at all. More than likely, it’s a nod to the current political landscape as Donald Trump plans to build a wall between America and Mexico, an issue that hits home for Hispanic members Lauren and Ally.
It’s been almost five years since the world was introduced to Fifth Harmony and it hasn’t been an easy ride. Between their oft-delayed debut album, rumours of in-fighting, poor ticket sales and criticism from all ends of the media, the girls of Fifth Harmony are the underdogs of the industry. However, they seem to have finally found their groove as a quartet and appear to be working to each other’s strengths, rather than spreading themselves thin and coming up short.
While this album is by no means ground breaking, the girls look and sound re-energised and focused more than ever before. And even better, it works as a brilliant and enjoyable taster to what Fifth Harmony, or should I say Fifth H4rmony, have the potential to offer.