Fifth Harmony's Road to Reinvention
    • TUESDAY, AUGUST 22, 2017

    • Posted by: Larisha Paul

    The current world of pop culture and social media has a weird way of distorting time and consequently making you feel as though things have been around for longer than they actually were. With so much news constantly being thrown at media consumers from every direction, it's hard to keep track of what happened to who and when, and after a while you don't even bother trying to keep pace. We've seen an incredible rise in this over the last few years that have caused 2012 to 2016 to be one big blur. Think about it like this, how much time seems to have passed since the ever regrettable "Harlem Shake" craze took over the internet? Ages, right? Well, it's actually only been 4 years, which isn't long at all. Although that may be one thing that we all intentionally tried to forget about, and successfully did so as it phased out, there are a few other trends that emerged in the midst of those years that are bigger than ever at this time in 2017, which can make it feel as though they've been here all along.

    To be honest, thinking about this distortion of time, it's hard to recall a time when Fifth Harmony wasn't one of the biggest musical acts in the industry. I know someone somewhere is reading this thinking, "What is she talking about? Fifth Harmony isn't even that popular!" To that person, I can understand why you would think that–there are plenty of larger artists with greater accomplishments, greater awards, higher chart topping albums; however, what we're not going to do is sit here and act like Fifth Harmony hasn't gained extremely notable success in their time in the spotlight. The girl group has managed to release pop tracks that ended up being essentially inescapable on the radio and across the internet 4 years in a row now. 2013's "Miss Movin On" spent 11 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, only to be topped in 2014 by "Bo$$" at 15 weeks, only for that to be absolutely stomped out by 2015's "Worth It," which held its place on the charts for a whopping 36 weeks. Last summer, "Work From Home" tapped out at 34 weeks on the charts, and just this week Fifth Harmony received their first ever single to debut at number 1 on the Billboard and Twitter Top Tracks chart with their newest single "Angel."

    The fact that Fifth Harmony has managed to maintain such a large following, and continuously release numerous hit tracks year after year baffles me, and I mean that in the most respectful way possible. Back in 2013, the group release their debut EP titled Better Together, which featured their debut post-X Factor single "Miss Movin' On". Along with this EP came the promotional single, "Me & My Girls," which, although catchy at the time, led people to wonder whether or not the girls would be able to stand the test of time. The chorus of the track gave mention to One Direction, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and a few other notable pop artists, in addition to wobbling and booty popping. All of these popular references created an atmosphere that suggested that the girls were trying to do nothing more than appeal to their young audience by referencing whatever was hot at the moment. It was a great pop song for its time, but looking back it sounds like it was made to only be played on Radio Disney.

    Of course, when Better Together was released, Fifth Harmony was still a new addition to the music industry, and they had only been together as a group for just over a year at this point. While the five girls, Lauren, Normani, Ally, Dinah, and Camila, worked out the kinks in their sound, the world stuck around with hopeful thoughts to see where it would go. When 2014 came around, we were graced with yet another Fifth Harmony banger: "Bo$$." The track was an empowering anthem for their young female audience, but by way of lyrical content seemed to have a shelf life. I mean come on, "Every day is payday, swipe my card then I do the nae nae," who is doing the nae nae in 2017? From there we get "I ain't thirstin' for no bae, cause I already know what you're tryna say." Again, at the time, really great song, and it's still a perfect track for your confidence booster playlist, it's just become pretty outdated.

    "Bo$$" was the lead single off of Fifth Harmony's debut album Reflection, which was released in January of 2015, and was followed up by "Sledgehammer" in 2014, a track that was fine the first few listens through, but left many listeners underwhelmed. At this point, everyone keeping tabs on the growth of Fifth Harmony was getting a little nervous about the release of Reflection, the change in maturity level wasn't as evident as some may have liked to see, and the tracks still seemed to follow the simple bubblegum pop formula.

    Fortunately, for both us and Fifth Harmony, Reflection did not disappoint. Overall, the 14 track album showed that of course the girls had room for improvement, as every artist does, but it didn't really matter because out of it came one of the group's biggest hits to date. "Worth It" featured rapper Kid Ink and its infectious beat drew listeners in, leading to the track being the first single by a girl group to enter the top 20 in the US in 6 years. The track has since received a 3x platinum certification and well over a billion views on Youtube.

    At this point, everyone was fairly certain that Fifth Harmony wasn't going anywhere any time soon, but for those who were still in denial, the group sealed the deal in 2016 with "Work From Home." The massive pop track featured Ty Dolla $ign and served as the lead single to the girls' second studio album 7/27.

    The apparent "raunchiness" of the track and the dance moves the girls served in the music video had critics and mothers everywhere questioning whether 5H was being too over the top for their young audience, which no one took the time to consider was not all that young anymore. And that made the track even more enjoyable. Nothing like people being mad at young women for being young women, am I right? Anyway, "Work From Home" became Fifth Harmony's biggest hit to date and sent their year into a spiral of success, which, in light of how disastrous 2016 was, is remarkable. The track has been nominated for 12 awards between its release and now, and the girls walked away with 8 of these awards including a MTV VMA for best collaboration.

    Of course 2016 was brutal for everyone, and Fifth Harmony was no exception. The year seemed to be smooth sailing from the very beginning, "Work From Home" was doing incredible, 7/27 showed us the maturity we were looking for in Fifth Harmony's music for so long, and things were definitely looking good for them going forward. Then we get to December and the calm world of 5H is disrupted at the announcement of Camila Cabello's departure from the group.

    Opinions on this news were pretty all over the place, some people were entirely heartbroken, whereas others saw it as an opportunity for the remaining girls to thrive like never before. Although many were surprised more than anything, it's hard to think that people didn't already see it coming. Camila had already been in the studio working with other artists on her own, and was featured on Shawn Mendes' track "I Know What You Did Last Summer" as well as Machine Gun Kelly's "Bad Things," which was released just two months before her departure was announced. Of course she had her reasons, but the whole situation was never properly addressed, honestly.

    Alright, so now here we are in 2017. Fifth Harmony is a four piece, and anyone who predicted that the group would be doing even better without Camila was absolutely right. This is no shade towards Camila, she brought her own umph to the group as all of the girls do; but, it isn't clear if some part of her being there was holding them back as a whole. Perhaps, after seeing that all eyes were now on them, 5H decided that it was time to step up their game and show the world that this disrupt in their routine wouldn't bring them down. Whatever the reason, the girls of Fifth Harmony are looking, sounding, and performing better than ever.

    Their first single as a group of four, "Down" featuring Gucci Mane, was released in June of this year just as everyone was gearing up for and enjoying the summer season, and this track solidified to everyone that Camila's presence wasn't necessary for 5H to have a hit. The girls seem more focused on their sound than they were before, zeroing in on each girl's unique vocal ability and using this to craft their music in a way that accentuates them each individually.

    Following the release of "Down," the group announced that their third studio album, Fifth Harmony, would be released on August 25, 2017. Releasing a self titled album after the ups and downs they've had as a group in the past year seems almost as though it serves as an ode to new beginnings. Their sound is new, their look is new, and with all that has changed for them it's good to see them embarking down a new path.

    At one point it seemed the group would fade on the grounds of their musical content and ability, which they proved entirely capable of sticking through, and that was followed by doubtful thoughts from some that they could continue without Camila, which they also shut down very quickly. Fifth Harmony's most recent single, "Angel," was released just last week and has earned the girls' a number one debut on the Billboard and Twitter Top Tracks chart. The song presents the group in a more hardcore light, with its heavy electronic sound and bold lyrics. At no point in the past did I ever expect to hear a 5H track with the lyrics "The original me wouldn't fuck with ya, and I was beginning to fuck with ya." No complaints from this end, I'm so here for them continuing to dominate on their rise to the top. They've come a long way from their substance-less tracks.

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