When we first met the girls that would become Fifth Harmony on The X Factor USA in 2012, I knew that they had the chops to become well-rounded pop stars. The girls: Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane Hansen, Camila Cabello, and Lauren Jauregui were the girl-band response to One Direction that we needed.
Years after the show, they were still searching for their sound. Amid countless album delays, I didn’t know if their full debut would have the impact that their fans, “Harmonizers,” wanted. However, after listening to “Reflection,” I believe it’s an important and representative album for teen girls to listen to today.
The album tries many different pop sounds, including electro/synth, dance/hip hop, and R&B. No two tracks sound the same and each attempt at a new genre works for their voices.
You have radio-friendly pop (“BO$$” and “Sledgehammer”), you have R&B jams (“Everlasting Love,” “We Know,” and “Suga Mama”), and you have banger beats that would be welcomed at any club (“Worth It” and “Body Rock”).
One thing I really value about Fifth Harmony, though, is how empowering they are. The girls of Fifth Harmony know their role-model status among their throngs of fans; they delivered an album full of inspirational songs just for them. They brush off dudes who play them (“If you’re gonna play games, you’re gonna lose / Yeah, I still want you, but I don’t need you”). And just when you think there’s finally a song where they pine for boys, they make it clear that they don’t need them at all (“You’d be rich if looking good was your profession / Think I’m in love, ’cause you so sexy / Boy, I ain’t talkin’ about you, I’m talking to my own reflection”).
A majority of their songs also relate back to pop culture references their fans will understand (especially Instagram and, puzzlingly, even Terio of Vine fame). They also focus on referencing the women that they look up to. There are mentions of Mariah Carey (“Like Mariah”) and Michelle Obama and Oprah (“Bo$$”).
Other references to their idols can be seen in the deluxe version’s “Brave Honest Beautiful” with Meghan Trainor, which implores girls to remind themselves they are worthy (“You can dance like Beyoncé / You can shake like Shakira / So wind like Rihanna / Go and pose like Madonna”).
I think Fifth Harmony’s mentions of pop culture shows the listeners that these are young women still emulating their idols. In the way that they find confidence in strong, independent women, they want Harmonizers to aspire to be the best they can be and to trust that they are worthy of self-love themselves.
Overall, “Reflection” is full of great messages for girls and young women alike. When I think of the type of pop albums I was listening to in high school I can remember a lot of “I’m-sad-because-this-boy-left-me” lyrics (“Forever & Always” by Taylor Swift was my favorite song for a really long time). For that reason, I think Fifth Harmony is important.
“Going Nowhere,” “Body Rock,” “Sledgehammer,” “Reflection”
Fifth Harmony’s debut album “Reflection” is in stores now.