Back in 2015, X-Factor US alums, Fifth Harmony proved themselves as arguably the sole musical act able to gain sustainable success beyond the show. Album Reflections was chocked full of swag and earned our approval, not to mention gold certification by the RIAA. On sophomore album 7/27, the feisty girl group aims to keep the swag flowing, capitalizing on the success of their debut.
7/27 opens energetically with “That’s My Girl.” The stomping four on the floor beat is enough to make the squarest person want to “bust a move.” That said, maybe the biggest rub is what made former hit “Worth It” so popular – that gritty saxophone. As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” but still! To the girls’ credit, the saxophone is less prominently used, supplanted by synths on the epic if simplistic hook.
Keeping the momentum flowing, hit single “Work From Home” arrives earlier rather than later. “Work From Home” is shallow, but infectiously so. It’s clearly the “victim” of heavy innuendo (“you don’t gotta go to work…/let my body do the work…/we can work from home”), but even if “Work From Home” shows its cards, it does so with a sexy brilliance – or something like that. Follow-up “The Life” tones down the suggestiveness of “Work,” but doesn’t sacrifice the swag that makes Fifth Harmony today’s “it” girl group. As they sing, “this is the life!” “Work it” girls – you’re “worth it!”
“Write On Me” gives Fifth Harmony a different look…well, a different sound. While it still maintains the groove driving the opening trio, it’s kinder and gentler. Why? It’s produced by electronic DJ Kygo and Norwegian production team StarGate, known prominently for their work with Ne-Yo back in the day. “Write On Me” doesn’t necessarily latch initially, but is a “grower” with successive listens.
“I Lied” returns the girls back where their “bread is buttered,” featuring some similar production cues to “Work from Home.” It’s not the same caliber, but “I Lied” definitely is sexy without crossing the line. The cleverest lyrical reference? “How Mary J call it, that real love.” “All In My Head (Flex)” has “hit” written all over it, bringing on autotune-loving rapper Fetty Wap. It’s not a track predicated on its depth, but if youthfulness and swag are the M.O. of 7/27 and Fifth Harmony themselves, it fits the billing.
“Squeeze” aims to be more serious, at least contextually. Does it succeed? Moderately, but most will prefer a more carefree side of Fifth Harmony. Similarly, “Gonna Get Better” is sound through and through, but certainly not as catchy or memorable as the suggestive “Work From Home.” Penultimate number “Scared of Happy” is slickly produced with an empowering message, but the feisty 80s-infused Missy Elliott feature “Not That Kinda Girl” is clearly more in the quintet’s lane. The deluxe edition of 7/27 adds a whopping two more songs: “Dope” and “No Way.”
Ultimately, how does 7/27 stack up? It’s enjoyable and sound without question, but not particularly innovative nor a tour de force. This album doesn’t best Reflections, but has its fair share of highlights, led by the terrific “Work From Home.”
Favorites: “Work From Home,” “The Life,” “I Lied” and “Not That Kinda Girl”
Fifth Harmony • 7/27 • Epic • Release Date: 5.27.16