Face it, the boy/girl group isn’t quite the same as it was at the turn of the millennium. Yes I know, One Direction are doing their thing, but they haven’t attained the same success of say The Backstreet Boys or N*N*Sync. Fifth Harmony is actually a promising prospect in the girl group field, something that hasn’t been 100% really since Destiny’s Child (yes, Danity Kane had a run). Fifth Harmony come by way of X-Factor, a show that has been struggling to back up the entertainment of watching it with some notable Billboard chart numbers. The most successful act from the US version of the show has been one ‘boy band’ by the name of Emblem 3. Still, they aren’t exactly taking the reins over from One Direction number wise (and One Direction has a little bad boy / swag streak going on). But back to the girls, Fifth Harmony seem legit enough on their debut EP Better Together.
“Don’t Wanna Dance Alone” makes a sound initial statement, taking things straight to the dance floor. The production is slick, the vocals are enthusiastic, bright, and bubbly, and the song – specifically the chorus – is catchy. “I got my bet on and I feel like dancing / all night long / nothing’s gonna stop me / you’re what I want / oh baby come and get me, cause I don’t wanna dance alone”. Anything new or innovative? No, but it’s a solid start for sure. “Miss Movin’ On” continues to sound youthful, fresh, and catchy, mixing electro and modern pop sensibilities. Everyone loves a good ‘broken relationship / moving on’ song and that’s just what the quintet offers here. Lyrics like “I’m breaking down, gonna start from scratch / shake it off like an etch-a-sketch…” and “…I jumped the fence to the other side / my whole world was electrified / now I’m no longer afraid / it’s Independence Day” are nothing short of music to the ears. Corny and schmaltzy? Perhaps, but their young and it’s definitely catchy.
“Better Together”, the title track doesn’t suffer from what I pen as the ‘titular bug’ – aka when the title track sucks! Here, the girls sit aside the modern pop for more contemporary R&B fare. This track should appeal to the demographic of Fifth Harmony’s audience who most enjoyed their stunning take on Shontelle’s “Impossible” on X-factor. The chorus is nothing flashy, just simple and repetitive. That said, it suits the gimmicky nature of the genre these days where artists just love their minimalism (“Boy I miss you, said I really do / boy I miss you / now understand that we’re better together…”) Another pro? The form as far as the songwriting structure works soundly.
The final two cuts are less intriguing, but still worthwhile. “Who Are You” benefits from its use of piano, occasional harmonized vocal moments, and the powerful ad libs appearing at the end. Lyrically, the use of the days of the weeks definitely stands out, creating the narrative of the song. Closing cut “Leave My Heart Out of This” quickens the tempo, rivaling the speed of the opener. Unfortunately, it’s less notable but the girls still have something to say: “I tell my heart to just butt out / keep its opinion to itself / I should just listen to my head / cause it’s the one who knows what’s best…” There it is!
Final thoughts? It’s very difficult to be ‘blown away’ by an EP, which is nothing more than a snapshot into what an artist or group’s full length album will sound like, but Fifth Harmony definitely come out of Better Together favorably. They don’t reinvent the wheel or the girl group, but they do deliver that thing call ‘promise.’ Promise is worth something, right?
Favorites: “Don’t Wanna Dance Alone”; “Miss Movin’ On”; “Better Together”
Fifth Harmony | Better Together (EP) | Syco / Epic | US Release Date: October 22, 2013