America's most popular girl group return with a lean, slightly updated version of their bombastic pop
A lot has happened in the nearly 16 months since Reflection, the giddy, explosive debut from these five X Factor vets. Justin Bieber and OMI triumphed with the perpetually chilled feel of so-called “tropical house,” Rihanna and Drake brought Billboard chart-toppers closer to dancehall music, Fetty Wap turned hip-hop into a melodic taffy-pull and Missy Elliott stormed the Super Bowl to tell everyone she’s back in business. Fifth Harmony’s second album 7/27 neatly embraces all of this without ever sounding cloying or desperate, making the girls seem right at home inside 2016’s pop jumble.
“Write on Me” gently rides the trop-house wave, but only by giving the micro-genre’s biggest festival draw, Norwegian DJ Kygo, his first production and songwriting credit for another artist. The island rhythms hinted in last year’s 5H album track “Them Girls Be Like” burst forth in the reggae-pop of “All My Head (Flex)” (which interpolates the Mad Cobra classic) and the gently pulsing “Gonna Get Better.” Missy and Fetty show up for assists that play to their strengths – though 2 Chainz might have been a better fit for “Work From Home” than Ty Dolla Sign, considering its naughty AC/DC-level entrendres (“ain’t no getting off early”). The beats are mostly booming or bouncy and the swagger is all over the place.
There’s nothing here as good as 2014’s “Bo$$,” but “That’s My Girl” bites its honking horns just fine and delivers a booming addendum to its empowering message: “Destiny said it, you got to get up and get it/Get mad independent, don’t you ever forget it.” The second Fifth Harmony LP isn’t a massive step forward, but with a constant bombardment of hooks, high energy and incredible harmony there’s not much time to catch your breath to compare.