It’s been four years since the girl group from X-Factor stepped off the stage in third place with plans to release an album and take the world by storm. While the girls made some noise with a few singles (“Miss Movin’ On”, “Boss”, “Sledgehammer”), an EP (Better Together), opening for some big names (Cher Lloyd, Demi Lovato, Austin Mahone), and a couple headlining tours, their loyal fan base (called Harmonizers) saw bigger things for the group. Even though talent reality shows are supposed to prepare you for mainstream success and it’s expected that an album and tour will happen as soon as the show is over, sometimes it’s good that an artist gets time to develop their sound. Even though Fifth Harmony has five very talented singers (Lauren Jauregui, Dinah Jane, Camila Cabello, Normani Kordei, Ally Hernandez), their family-friendly pop tunes they started with wouldn’t get them to the level of some of their girl group competition (Little Mix, HAIM) and their supposedly male counterpart, One Direction.
Fifth Harmony’s debut album Reflection can currently be streamed on iTunes radio. Sometimes it’s difficult to get an honest opinion from fans that want an artist to win so badly, so if you’re part of the general public who isn’t too familiar with the group, I’ll walk you through the album.
Before hearing the album, I felt like I had a pretty concrete idea of what to expect. Throughout countless interviews, 5H made it clear that they are growing up, and they want their music to mature with them. This album wasn’t going to be a continuation of the bubblegum pop found in their Better Together EP, and I, being a fan of their more recent stuff, was completely on board with that.
Reflection begins with “Top Down” a snap-filled, R&B track that has a throwback vibe with the production. The opener is definitely a change from what you know from Fifth Harmony as they let their hair down in a new city. The track is so infectious from the playful lyrics, “I ain’t got a lotta money / but I got a lotta style / what what.” to each girls approach to the track. “Top Down” is a good introduction to a fun ride your about to take.
Their first single from the album, “Boss,” is next. The horns, stomps and sassy lyrics still have the girls sounding as confident as ever. Out of all the tracks on the album, “Boss” isn’t the stand out single, but I guess it was a nice way to ease their fans into their evolved sound. After the repetitive Michelle Obama-focused track is over, “Sledgehammer” is next. A textbook pop hit, I’m glad this track was received well by the public because it’s definitely one of Fifth Harmony’s best songs so far. “If you could take my pulse right now / it would feel just like a sledgehammer.” The girls warn in the catchy chorus not to be confused with being heartbroken like a “Wrecking Ball.”
Fifth Harmony doesn’t want to stick with one sound in Reflection. After the 80s feeling pop tune is over, a more urban-leaning track featuring Cali rapper Kid Ink called “Worth It” is on deck. That saxophone still reminds me of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” and Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” but that familiarity won’t hurt them if this track goes on the radio. The girls turn up the heat with “Worth It” as Dinah commands attention on the first verse, and Camilla remains the driving force of the rest of the track. I can already hear this being overplayed on the radio. 5H switches up genres again with electro-pop track, “This Is How We Roll.” Produced by pop hit-makers Dr. Luke and Cirkut, it reminds me of will.i.am’s single “Scream and Shout” that featured Britney Spears. I never thought I’d hear Fifth Harmony on an electronic track or hear them singing about making it clap with no hands, but hey, I don’t mind a surprise or two.
The first love song of the album makes an appearance on the mid-tempo banger “Everlasting Love.” This track really showcases the girls amazing voices; R&B tracks seem to be their strong suit. I like that this track features Dinah more because her voice hasn’t been showcased on the singles compared to other girls in the group. ”Everlasting Love” is a simple feel good track, and there isn’t too much else to say about it.
When I heard that the girls were sampling Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” on their track “Like Mariah,” I was bracing myself for the worst. While the girls are talented, you can’t mess up on a legend’s track, especially with a single as career-defining as “Always Be My Baby.” “Your loving takes me higher / you set my heart on fire / when you touch my body / got me singing like Mariah.” I was waiting to hear whistle tones and Mariah-esque vocals, but 5H stayed true to their voices, and the track is solid. There are very few times when a rapper adds to a pop track, and featured rapper Tyga doesn’t add much other than an opportunity for the girls to be heard by more ears.
The next track from Reflection is “Them Girls Be Like,” which gives me Beyoncé vibes if she used teenage slang and was still doing the group thing. The track is fun, and I’m sure it’s relatable to a lot of girls that will probably jam out to the track – not one of my favorites though. Their next tracks “Reflection” and “Suga Mama” on the other hand, are another story. I’ve been waiting for a studio version of “Reflection” since watching concert footage of the track. The polished, finished product sounds great, and I love hearing the confidence that is dripping off of this track. From Dinah starting it off, seemingly gassing up some guy with some vine references, “Cause ooh you be killing’ ’em just like little Terio,” to Camila complimenting his selfie game, “Don’t need no filters on pictures before you post ’em on the gram / shut down the internet / they don’t even understand,” you think you know where this song is going. Well, until Normani deflates the poor guy’s ego in the chorus. The song distribution on this track is perfect, and it’s a good overall representation of the group.
“Suga Mama” is another track inspired by the great girl groups of a slightly older era (think Destiny’s Child or Danity Kane). Meghan Trainor co-wrote this one, and you can definitely hear her influence as well, if you’ve heard some stuff from her debut album Title. Over a bouncy, glitchy beat, the girls declare they don’t want to wine and dine their dates, so you won’t be getting any handouts from them. All of their voices are on point in this song, and their attitude is perfect for a feisty track like this. “Suga Mama” is definitely another highlight from the album.
Their slowest track “We Know” closes out the standard edition of Reflection. Over minimal production, the group is telling off a player that gets around. I feel like each song on this album really showcases one of the girl’s voices, and this one definitely goes to Lauren. I’ve been a fan of this track after hearing live performances of it, so I’m glad it found a place on the final tracklisting.
The bonus tracks are a pretty good listen if you aren’t ready for the album to end yet. “Going Nowhere” has a slight island flare to it as the girls command their guy to take a seat because he isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. There are a couple of memorable lines in this one, “Boy, you better act like you got some sense / ’cause you got a dime, and that’s money well spent.” Out of the three bonus tracks, “Going Nowhere” is easily my favorite, but “Body Rock” and “Brave Honest, Beautiful (feat. Meghan Trainor)” are unexpected and solid as well.
Even though it took three years to hear an album from Fifth Harmony, Reflection was worth the wait. I’m glad the girls had some time to mature and find their sound. While I was expecting the album to be R&B focused, I’m not mad at the variety they decided to add. Songs like “Reflection”, “Top Down,” “We Know,” and “Suga Mama,” are tracks that sound exclusive to Fifth Harmony’s sound, and I can’t hear anyone else singing them. There has been a lack of successful girl groups in the U.S. for a while, and Fifth Harmony might be the group that changes that. I’ll definitely be watching what happens with this group and seeing if the mainstream will make this album a success. I don’t think Fifth Harmony will have much trouble winning the doubters over, and with a devoted fan base holding them down, those extremely early One Direction comparisons won’t be too far off soon.