When Fifth Harmony were formed on the X-Factor USA back in 2012, I didn’t expect much to happen with them. But over the last five years, they’ve really surprised me with how they’ve grown as a group. Their sophomore album ‘7/27’ was one of 2016’s best records and it was constantly on loop in my house. Now back with their third album titled ‘Fifth Harmony’, it is their first as a four-piece. The big question is – is the magic still there? The short answer – sort of.
With this being their first album as a quartet, it was really important for them to craft the perfect album for them and sort of reconfigure themselves. This has been mostly been done with bringing Lauren to the forefront. After years of always being in the background and getting very little solo lines, Lauren (who is totally the best member) is finally getting the chance to shine and it’s great to see. Listening to the album, the charisma and star quality is still there but the key ingredient is missing – killer songs.
Opening track and lead single ‘Down’ is a perfect example of the issue with this record. ‘Down’ is a catchy urban pop track. The vocals are absolutely on point, the production is slick and the rap from Gucci Mane compliments the song well. But it’s a retread of their last lead single ‘Work From Home’ which therefore means comparisons. And Down isn’t nearly as good as Work From Home. So while Down is a good catchy pop song, much of it’s appeal is lost because of this.
Current single ‘He Like That’ does manage to avoid this and successfully takes the girls into a more retro urban sound. This should have been the lead single. It’s super Summery, the production is stellar and the harmonies in the chorus are just killer. They make me melt, they are so flipping good. If this isn’t a huge hit for them then the world sucks. ‘Sauced Up’ is a slice of noughties inspired urban electro pop. It’s very 2006. The vocals are a little too autotuned for me – I can’t actually tell who is singing what part apart from the adlibs. Again, it’s a cute catchy song but it’s a lot more muted than I need it to be. It needs that key change or break towards the end to up the ante and really pop off.
We’re now onto the fourth track ‘Make You Mad’ and this is where the trouble starts. From here right through to track seven ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’, is unmemorable. Make You Mad is completely lacking in energy, it’s pop on autopilot. Lifeless. ‘Deliver’ is a bit better with it’s nineties Mariah inspired vibe but they’ve done it better on previous albums. ‘Lonely Night’ is forgettable. I’ve listed to it multiple times and I cannot remember how it goes at all. For a group who are at a real crossroads in their careers, this is not good. ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ does have some good qualities – the girls sound gorgeous and the key change at the end is welcome. It’s issue is in it’s placement in the album. After three duds, you are clambering for something to really grab your attention and this is not the sort of song I’m looking for.
‘Angel’ takes us back to the urban sound of the singles. It’s really well produced and it’s vibe is one that really suits the girls. I understand that they wanted to go for a more harder R&B urban sound and this is much more representative of what the album should have been. This is a 2017 American girl group song and should have been the blueprint for the whole album.
On their last album, one of my favourite songs was ‘Squeeze’. I loved the electro R&B Pop ballads and it was a style that suited the tones of their voices. ‘Messy’ is the closest we get to that and it’s a really lovely song. Like ‘Down’ however, it’s lacking that spark that elevates it up to a 5 out of 5. Closing track ‘Bridges’ is a gorgeous upbeat uplifting pop track where Ally and Dinah really shine vocally. It’s the poppiest track on the album but it fits well as the closer.
I feel quite frustrated writing this review because I wanted to love this album so much. 7/27 was such a brilliant album and the girls seem so much happier as a four piece that I wanted this to be really good. But it’s just lacking that special ingredient. This feels more like the follow up to their debut album ‘Reflection’ than the follow up to ‘7/27’. I don’t blame the girls for this though. They sound better than ever and the energy between them is really strong. But the majority of the tracks on offer feel very much like leftovers from previous records. For such an important album as this one, I would have expected their label and their A&R team to be pulling out all the stops to ensure they build on the huge successes of 2016. I truly hope that ‘He Likes That’ catches on because if not, I don’t think there is anything else available on this album that will give them the success they need to keep going.
Fifth Harmony – Fifth Harmony
The 3rd studio album from American girl group Fifth Harmony.