Fifth Harmony wanted their sophomore release to be more soulful and reflect their growth as women and artists. To achieve this, the five-piece girl group known for the wildly popular “Worth It” capitalize on the the formula that has so far brought them success. Their new record, 7/27, ends up feeling a bit too manufactured and inauthentic at times, but there is real growth as the album progresses that shows a new side to the band. There are plenty of tracks to dance to on 7/27, but it truly shines when the production is dialed back and lyrics get deeper.
7/27 opens with “That’s My Girl”, a mindlessly fun girl-power track all about independence. A fabulous and infectious production from Alex Purple and Lulou make the track a strong opener, despite a repetitious chorus that seems to be standard from Fifth Harmony. (The chorus is literally “That’s my girl” x6, with a “Get up, what you waiting for?” thrown in for some variety.)
“Work From Home”, the lead single from 7/27 featuring Ty Dolla $ign, is a steamy track all about sex. It’s a bit formulaic and calculated, but chances are you aren’t listening to Fifth Harmony for their inspiring lyrics or vocal talents, but rather their ability to make a fun and enjoyable record. In that regard, “Work From Home” shines, even though it apparently needed six writers to perfect the chorus of “You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work / Work, work, work / But you gotta put in work, work, work, work / Work, work, work / You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work / Work, work, work / Let my body do the work, work, work, work / Work, work, work / We can work from home, oh, oh, oh-oh / We can work from home, oh, oh, oh-oh”
The repetition continues on “The Life”, and becomes noticeably distracting from what could potentially otherwise be stellar songs. Authenticity seems to be lacking on the tracks, and even in a manufactured girl group, that feeling of purity is possible – acts like Girls Aloud and the Spice Girls are proof of that. 7/27 is just Fifth Harmony’s sophomore album, so hopefully as they continue to work with new producers and collaborators, they will gain more experience and knowledge into crafting a song that, despite insipid lyrics, feels inspired. The words to “That’s My Girl”, “Work From Home” and “The Life” wouldn’t be so inane and vacuous if they were sung with a passion that couldn’t be rivaled.
With three dance-driven tracks opening 7/27 with a bang, “Write On Me” slows the tempo down and gives the girls a chance to finally shine. It’s become almost a matter of fact that the chorus on a Fifth Harmony song will be void of life, but thankfully the verses on “Write On Me” make up for this, with beautifully colorful lyrics that would make the girl group hall of fame proud. Stargate, who both wrote and produced the track, leave their indelible mark of greatness. “Write On Me” is a standout on 7/27.
“I Lied” is a thrilling electropop love song with relatable verses and a chorus that actually serves to move the song forward, both sonically and lyrically. Complete with a Mary J. Blige namedrop, “I Lied” shows signs of life on the album, making it interesting enough that Fifth Harmony are at their most heart-racing when they slow things down and let a track breathe.
Fetty Wap joins the girls for “All In My Head (Flex)”, a delightfully fun reggae bop. Dinah and Normani sound wonderful together on the chorus, and Fetty Wap sounds at home with the song’s relaxed production. Stargate produced this track with Benny Blanco and Sir Nolan, and once again Stargate’s wonderful work is a highlight for Fifth Harmony.
A song like “Squeeze” sounds like a dance track from its title alone, but the track about embracing a lover is more intimate with breathy lyrics and uplifting production that portray the song’s warm and loving message. Dinah leads the chorus, and while it lyrically isn’t the most dynamic, her commanding voice more than gets the job done.
Things get even more intimate and personal on “Gonna Get Better”, a song that gives the R&B flavor that the girls were hoping to infuse into their new album a turn at the spotlight. The verses are substantial but never crowded; the song flows from verse to verse, with the chorus carrying the way. “I don’t know why you always think that I’m / Unhappy with our paradise / That I’m wanting the trees that are growing the green / But you know all that I want is you,” Camila sings on the track, about staying with a partner through thick and thin and not being tempted by others more successful or richer. It’s a surprisingly mature and well-rounded track on 7/27.
“Scared of Happy” is another unexpectedly developed track with lyrics about a girl struggling to accept the happiness she feels from a new lover and confronting the fear of being hurt again. Not much is resolved on the track; the girl is just as fearful and scared on the outro as she is when the song begins, but love is a tricky thing and “Scared of Happy” will surely hit home for a lot of listeners who need to wallow in the anxiety that comes before ultimately loving yourself and accepting the happiness you deserve.
Missy Elliot lends her trademark flavor on “Not That Kinda Girl”, an 80’s influenced track about demanding respect from a potential suitor. Just as the first three tracks of 7/27 are shallow and uptempo, “Not That Kinda Girl” closes the album’s standard edition on an upbeat note that encapsulates what comes to mind when one thinks of Fifth Harmony as a girl group.
The album’s deluxe tracks offer more of the soulful R&B sound that Fifth Harmony are quickly becoming masters of recording. “Dope” is a song about being too scared to tell a crush how you feel about them, and its mellow synth and finger snaps make the track blissful. “No Way” continues the vulnerability, featuring vibrantly imaginative lyrics on top of the R&B soul. The only problem is how short the verses are; thankfully the song’s breathtaking chorus makes up for the fact that the verses end as soon as they begin, which is a real shame — these are the most in-depth and palpable verses on the album. “I know you don’t want me anymore by the look on your face / They say when it rains it pours, you can tell by my face.”
7/27 got off to a shaky start with overproduced songs that underwhelmed lyrically, but the album eventually came together with tracks that showed a deeper, more emotional side to Fifth Harmony. There’s still a lot of room for Fifth Harmony to grow, but 7/27 shows clear signs of progress on the girls’ path to hopeful girl-group history. With a star-studded team of producers and writers in their arsenal, Fifth Harmony’s power will only grow stronger. 7/27 won’t be the album that puts the band in the music history books, but it’s still an enjoyable listen that will surely please current fans and, with the right single choices and promotion, bring them some new Harmonizers, too.