In years past we’ve come to expect the rise and fall of triumphant and empowering girl bands. The stuttered starts and silent falls have put girl groups on the map and then kicked them off. There hasn’t been a solid rise of a girl group since Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls or even En Vogue. The ’90s “Independent Ladies” era swiftly took us to the early ’00s where Destiny’s Child, Spice Girls and En Vogue disbanded, along with the groups that couldn’t hack it in the time of CDs and Mp3s.
Since then, we’ve seen many girl groups that have disappeared after a single hit (i.e: “Do-It-To-It” featuring Sean Paul by sister group Cherish, and 2014’s “Ugly Heart” by G.R.L) . It’s become the norm compared to their boy band peers, where one single leads to the next and to lasting fame. However, since Fifth Harmony launched their career off a third place showing on X-Factor US in 2012, there has been a new resurgence in girl groups that have begun to infiltrate the music world again.
In the same vein as their full length debut, 7/27 sips from the pure pop bottle genre with no shame. Co-written by Tinashe, “That’s My Girl,” opens up the album with Britney-esque simpered words before cracking down on the saxophone and making your spin. It’s eerily reminiscent to 2015’s Reflection‘s “Top Down” sans Camila Cabello’s heavily auto tuned falsetto. “Destiny said it, you got to get up and get it / Get mad independent and don’t you ever forget it / Got some dirt on your shoulder / Then let me brush it off for ya,” raps the girl group. The song is an ode to the empowering groups who came before them and ultimately an ode to the all the strong women in the world who “get up and get it.”
Slowing down the tone, 5H flex their vocals in the Kygo and Stargate produced “‘Write on Me.” The tropical-house beat builds up the chorus as the track builds. “Write on me / Give me some wings I’ll fly / Love the way you tat me up / I’ll never change my mind,” promises Lauren Jauregui.
No track on the album beats the reggae influenced “All in My Head (Flex)” featuring Fetty Wap, and the sound of Dinah Jane showing off the vocals that were hidden in the previous album. The track even gives Ally Brooke the chance to show off the lead vocals she has under her belt that tends to be overpowered by her fellow members.
The imbalanced lead vocals of Reflection caused the album to sound unfinished and only gave the world a small taste to what the five women could deliver. Despite the lyrics of women empowerment and feminism, the Missy Elliot featured track “Not That Kinda Girl” has the potential to leave a sour taste in your mouth. “Why you looking like I’m that kinda girl? / Just cause I’m hot don’t mean that I’m that girl / If you want me, don’t treat me like I’m her / Don’t get fucked up, I’m not that kinda girl,” sings Cabello. While loaded down with a catchy beat and easily memorable lyrics, the message of slut shaming sits rotten and beaten down, painfully reminiscent to “Them Girls Be Like,” which pitted young women against each other using lyrics like: “If you’re thirsty, you can’t sit with us.”
Missy Elliot’s guest rap is pretty good, and is easily comparable to when Missy laid down a rap for UK X Factor winners Little Mix on the remix of their single, “How Ya Doin’?”
The easily forgettable tracks lie in “Squeeze” with cringe-worthy one line choruses that include: “Put your arms around me, baby / Put your arms around me, baby / And squeeze.” One of the two deluxe tracks, “No Way,” is as boring as Reflection‘s “We Know” with over exaggerated harmonies and dark beats that abruptly tarnish the flow of the album.
If you’re looking for ballads like “Everlasting Love” and heavily controlled pop beats like “Reflection”, 7/27 won’t give you it. That’s a sign of progression and a sign of a steadily evolving group. Fifth Harmony isn’t releasing albums that sound exactly the same, although themes and messages remain similar. They’re releasing albums that pin them to a place and time, and then moving to the next; They’re keeping up and carving a place for themselves within a genre that has lost an important presence: girl groups.
The tracks you should listen to first: “Dope”, “All in My Head (Flex)”, “Scared of Happy”, “I Lied”
Favorite lyric: “With hands that could save me / Face that could break me / Sort of in love with you / But I wouldn’t say that to you.” (“Dope”)