Right. Whatever we say about Fifth Harmony is probably not going to go down with their fanbase but, hey, at least we’re not that attention-seeking hack from The Sun who recently did a pretty needless hatchet job on them.
Having said that, it’s not good news for the girls on their new self-titled album. And it has nothing to do with the absence of Camila Cabello (doing rather well in her own right); Fifth Harmony have always had the ingredients ready for a good girl band except for two rather important things. Enthusiasm and chemistry.
You only need to listen to Down or He Like That to figure it out. Each individual member becomes increasingly hard to tell apart as they proffer their own lackadaisical contributions, sounding bored on the former and distinctly sexless on the latter. Honestly, there’d probably be more sensuality under Simon Cowell’s left armpit than anything in the first half of this album.
The thing is, they’re all solid in their own right. Camila’s solo success has proven that, and even Lauren Jauregui’s turn on Halsey‘s fantastic Strangers is arguably better than anything Fifth Harmony have done together. And here, when they self-title a new record in the hope of revealing the ‘real’ version of themselves? We’re serviced with run-of-the-mill songs like Sauced Up (an advert for spending the rest of your life sober, to be honest).
If we’re bound by duty to find something positive here then it’s Don’t Say You Love Me or even Make You Mad, a magpie of a song that takes literally nothing original but pulls together a lot of blog-favourite tropes and ties them together pretty neatly. But that’s not enough to cure the sheer unforgivable boredom that pours out of every A&R’ed orifice of this album. Even down to the weirdly borrowed cadence from Shaggy on the appropriately-titled Messy.
At a time when female pop is certainly as its pinnacle, when rising stars with little to no money are blazing trails in production, there’s no justifying the release of something that’s so bland it’d make a dish sponge seem gourmet. With or without Camila, Fifth Harmony have always been a band where the sum has never done justice to the individual parts – they could have taken their collective trauma and turned it into something electric, but it peters to a bland end on Bridges. Rather than build Bridges, they should maybe consider burning them not just with their record label but with each other too. There’s certainly more to be gained as solo acts at this juncture, because this feels a lot less like harmony than it does self-harm.