Likes: That's My Girl, No Way
Dislikes: Work from Home
Overall: Summer-perfect pop; still no real harmonies or strong vocal moments, but the writing has improved some.
I'm one of those listeners that caught Fifth Harmony in their infancy on U.S. X-Factor. I watched them audition individually, be put together and almost win the whole darn thing. I had an early investment. I feel they've progressed steadily, but there are definitely important kinks to smooth out. In terms of their music, they've maintained a wooing, fiery aplomb that grounds them as they coast around styles, so they don't sound like they're having an identity or branding crisis. Last year's Reflection was R&B-laced pop with hip-hop strands. 7/27 (the date of their formation; why the album wasn't released at that time is a mystery to me) is a breezy, jaunty and perfect-for-summer LP of acoustic pop, tropical house and electronic dance. Many of the tracks are an amalgamation of these genres, starting with one type and ending with another, or a different one per section of the song (i.e. verse, chorus and bridge). This can be annoying if you dig a track's initial vibe, but by and large, it earns the producers (which includes Stargate and Alexander Kronlund) points. For example, I would be perfectly fine if "Gonna Get Better" remained a sweet, acoustic "through-thick-and-thin" ballad.
The writing has beefed up; it's more pensive and a bit romantic. "Write on Me" (co-written by Stargate and Priscilla Renea, among others) and "No Way" (Victoria Monet) are superlatives. The album wouldn't be complete without some dregs of the low-grade standards of today, though, right? Apparently, the best way to say you're not to be mistaken for an easy catch or lay is "Don't get me f**ked up" (from "Not That Kinda Girl"). The most articulate way to tell a guy he's a treasure is "You're pretty fucking dope" ("Dope"). Lyrics now are so conversational, and not in a good way. The language is casual and ineloquent. There's no effort to have them read like poetry or...well...lyrics. Away from the uncouthness, the funky "Not That Kinda Girl" (featuring Missy Elliott) marks the spot. It's so 80's, that you'd swear it samples Janet Jackson or Prince. "That's My Girl," which singer Tinashe partly penned, hits too: it's fortifying girl-group goodness that will have you ready to attack the day. "Destiny said it, you got to get up and get it, get mad independent and don't you ever forget it," is doubtlessly a deferential nod to one of the biggest-selling female collectives of all-time, Destiny's Child. Part of what made them, and other major groups, so iconic was a signature. No one else could do "Independent Women," but DC. No one else could do "Wannabe" or "Waterfalls" but the Spice Girls and TLC. 5H can't continue to let their sass be their sole discriminating trait (though it's a strong one), while the music lags behind. They have some cute bops, but any other troupe could sing them and it wouldn't make a difference. Moreover, there's nothing that truly showcases their vocal ability, either individually or as an ensemble. Fifth Harmony's their name, but there are barely any harmonies or a cappella moments. The material so far is nowhere near timeless and does them a disservice. At a simple and undemanding level, 7/27 is great to put on and let rip while you clean the house, cruise or host a barbecue. If you have great expectations, hopes and dreams for this party of five (I seriously loved that show), it'll do for now while you wait for things to come together.