Fifth Harmony slays with grown-up image in ‘7/27’

Tuesday, May 31, 2016 - 9:05pm

NOSELL

Epic and Syco

 

Fifth Harmony’s sophomore album retains the good and, to a lesser extent, the bad from their debut. Though the girls haven’t innovated their sound, they’re already making headway to becoming a pop force to be reckoned with, as seen by how 7/27’s lead single “Work From Home” became their first top-10 hit.

“Work From Home” is a sleekly-produced hit sure to get stuck in your head. The clean, simple beat, almost like a heartbeat, enticingly hooks you with care. The girls’ vocals are strong, as can be expected. The verses waver, more than flow, from member to member, but it adds to the cool and relaxing feel of the song. The chorus is redundant — a ditty like those found in many of their previous singles — but drills its way into your ears like a true pop hit should. Even when following standard pop conventions, “Work From Home” manages to sound distinct from the current trends on the radio.

Overall, Fifth Harmony has kept the sound from their previous album, Reflections, continuing to rely on urban pop and horn-driven beats. Thankfully, their female-empowering lyrics have gained substance over time. “That’s My Girl” praises young women who work hard and love their body while taking a page from Destiny’s Child’s songbook. The retro “Not That Kinda Girl,” following the style of “Uptown Funk” with added 1980s synthesizers and a welcome feature by Missy Elliott, explores how the girls won’t give in to men who try to lure them with fancy cars or alcohol just because they’re “hot” — confronting the common stereotypical girls who show off their beauty are promiscuous. Fifth Harmony celebrates taking care of themselves as part of having healthy self-esteem. Though not representative of every woman’s values, this encouragement for having a strong work ethic and finding partners who respect your sexual needs is a big improvement from their last album. Notably, in Reflections’s “Them Girls Be Like,” Fifth Harmony recognize they, like other girls, live for taking selfies and worrying about their looks while saying they don’t want to associate with “thirsty” girls who “do too much.” This criticism is ironic with the release of their sexually-charged music video for “Work From Home,” in addition to their sexy costumes and infamous love of twerking during their live performances. I hope this irony is not lost on them in their future songwriting.

A substantial part of the album delightfully blends electronic music and pop. A prime example is “The Life,” which sounds like it was produced by Avicii at his most melodious. At the surface, it sounds like a typical millennial anthem, filled with bragging about having a “lit” time after achieving fame, material wealth and extensive travel to places like Dubai (a hotspot for young celebrities in recent years). Yet its feel-good atmosphere is similar in spirit to the Chainsmokers’s “Roses,” a song that makes you want to live in the moment. “I Lied” has a catchy trap and tropical influence with a beat like LMFAO. There are one too many songs about love that don’t bring anything new to the group’s independent modern woman repertoire, like “I Lied,” “Squeeze” and “Gonna Get Better,” but they’re fun to listen to anyway.

But there are notable standouts among these love songs. “Write on Me” raises the spirit with a sweet ballad about a girl letting her lover shape who she is as a result of how close they are, aided by the fact he is her best friend. The way Fifth Harmony powerfully sings the chorus together makes the heart swell. The playful beats that pepper the song, while vaguely resembling pop love songs from the 1980s, make the song refreshing (and not overly-mature for the 19-year olds) as well. 7/27 is sure to satisfy Fifth Harmony’s fans new and old. Solid and fun, these radio-ready songs are sure to hit your ears’ sweet spot this summer.