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Fifth Harmony - Fifth Harmony (Album Review)

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

Fifth Harmony are a Miami-based girl group who finished third in the American X Factor in 2012. They were subsequently signed jointly with Epic Records and Simon Cowell’s Syco Records and released two records before the departure of the charismatic Camila Cabello in December 2016. They quickly opted to continue as a four piece.

With those basic facts in hand, it is reasonable to expect their third album to be a sharply-produced, expertly performed pop product and little more. It is exactly that.

Its standout tracks deliver production du jour. A tropical house beat is married with trap-infused 808 snares on the excellent Down - which features Gucci Mane - while the sexy Make You Mad utilises the band’s vocal interchanges as expertly as anything on the album.

That trap sound also resonates on one of the lead singles, Angel, which acts as a bit of a bargain buffet for every sound effect in 2017 mainstream pop. That is no bad thing.

The syncopated rata-tat-tat of the vocal is a compelling motif, and the song also features a voice-synth solo that sounds crazy in a good way. It’s probably the only thing on ‘Fifth Harmony’ that resembles an attempt at originality.

Elsewhere, He’s Like That uses a crunchy old-skool beat alongside a bassy guitar riff to build a potentially robust pop song. It samples Pumps and a Bump by MC Hammer, and perhaps because of this, credits some 11 songwriters.

The high volume of creative personnel (including 10 producers) is no surprise on a mainstream pop album by a manufactured band. Fifth Harmony are not Erykah Badu, nor are they Haim, so you don't expect musical auteurism, but too many creatives do tend to result in a thematic dislocation on albums of this ilk.

While the record is fairly cogent in terms of the production quality, its key component - the one implied in the name of the band - is five (now four) part harmony. It is meant to be the essential difference from other girl groups. We don’t get that. We get a serviceable and likeable album of songs that could easily have already been offered to (and performed by) other artists, which relegates it a little.

Good pop albums explode because they capture a certain zeitgeist; cultural, musical or otherwise. You can’t force it, but you can create a fertile environment for that zeitgeist to take hold. ‘Fifth Harmony’ (the album) doesn’t appear to make a decent play for this, or perhaps it was too rushed to account for such a nuanced creative consideration.

The departure of a key member tends to be terminal for pop groups, and if this is indeed a swansong album, it will be one that goes out with a fizz as opposed to a bang. The X Factor here might refer to the band’s ex-member.

Fifth Harmony Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Tue October 24 2017 - PERTH Arena
Fri October 27 2017 - MELBOURNE Margaret Court Arena
Sat October 28 2017 - SYDNEY ICC Sydney Theatre
Wed November 01 2017 - BRISBANE Convention Centre
Fri September 15 2017 - POMONA California - Los Angeles County Fair (USA)

Click here to compare & buy Fifth Harmony Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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