Release Date: Aug 25, 2017
Record label: Epic
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Vocal, Pop/Rock, Dance-Pop, Pop Idol, Contemporary R&B
The dramatic departure of Fifth Harmony's Camila Cabello couldn't have come at a riskier time for the girl group: Last year, mega-hit "Work From Home" became their first Top 10 single, establishing the group as a Top 40 force to be reckoned with. Now a foursome, they have learned what works: a healthy dose of danger mixed with ego-boosting empowerment anthems. They keep spirits and energy high with muted trop house and hip-hop beats on their third album.
With last December’s buzzy departure of singer Camila Cabello, the X Factor-forged girl group Fifth Harmony lost one of its five spokes, but their latest record doesn’t seem to be very interested in reinventing the wheel. On their self-titled third studio album, you wouldn’t know any such membership mix-up took place based on the safe, consistent, simple sound the four remaining women (Dinah Jane Hansen, Ally Brooke Hernandez, Lauren Jauregui, and Normani Kordei) and their bushel of producers have churned out. If anything, Fifth Harmony echoes like a B side to last year’s superior 7/27 (which begat the smash single “Work From Home”) but delivers only a faint aftershock of its quake.
Having been reduced to a four-part harmony following the departure of Camila Cabello, US girl band Fifth Harmony’s self-titled third album simultaneously feels like a statement of intent and a hastily cobbled together swansong. There are flashes of brilliance, on the low-slung, sweaty R&B of He Like That (which samples MC Hammer), Don’t Say You Love Me’s airy heartbreak and the Skrillex-assisted Angel, which features scattergun drum-claps slowly distorting into a head-spinning cacophony. Unfortunately, there are also some real “will this do?” moments spread over the album’s streamlined 30 minutes, most notably lazy lead single Down’s basic facsimile of last year’s excellent Work From Home.
Fifth Harmony, the group’s third studio album, opens with “Down,” a song that sports practically the same perfect hook from their 2016 hit “Work From Home.” Only this time, there is absolutely nothing supporting the song other than the same pseudo-tropical keyboard line that has been plaguing Spotify Daily Mix for the past five years. “Down” is briefly salvaged in the middle eight by a strangely complementary Gucci Mane, whose bare-bones verse is underlaid with crunchy, distorted bass. Fifth Harmony acrimoniously lost a popular member, Camila Cabello, last year, and the group has a lot to prove with this album—beginning with an ersatz facsimile of your last hit single truly does not bode well..
Just after filming 2016’s New Year’s Eve special, Fifth Harmony announced Camila Cabello had left the group, under acrimonious but predictable circumstances: Cabello had laid the groundwork for a solo career well before her departure, debuting on tracks by radio-friendly Shawn Mendes and Machine Gun Kelly. The moment arrives in the story of virtually every girl or boy group. Sometimes it’s practically written in: Fifth Harmony, like One Direction, were assembled from aspiring solo artists on The X Factor, a machine with notoriously punishing yet short contracts that singers often yearn to escape.