Fifth Harmony

7/27

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One of the most anticipated releases of 2016, Fifth Harmony's sophomore full-length album, 7/27, is a sophisticated production that finds the all-female outfit nicely transitioning from the brash ingenues who finished third on the second season of The X Factor into reliably mature pop divas. The album follows up their breakthrough debut, 2015's Reflection, and once again showcases the talents of vocalists Ally Brooke, Normani Kordei, Lauren Jauregui, Camila Cabello, and Dinah Jane. Named after the date that Fifth Harmony was officially formed during their time on Fox's The X Factor, 7/27 features production from a handful of top-level hitmakers, including Dallas K, Stargate, Kygo, and others. In some ways, 7/27 sounds a lot like Reflection with a slick, contemporary R&B studio sound accented by a confident, feminist-informed attitude. Cuts like "I Lied," "Squeeze," and the acoustic guitar-driven "Write on Me," have a pleasant, midtempo, adult-contemporary vibe. It's a sound that works to frame the group as "mature" even as it finds them sacrificing some of the youthful club energy that made Reflection so fun. Thankfully, it's not all burnished edges, and tracks like the playful "Work from Home," featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and the spiky, Day-Glo "Not That Kinda Girl," featuring the dynamic Missy Elliott, build upon Fifth Harmony's knack for mixing juicy R&B hooks with just enough hip-hop muscle to keep things from getting too polite. Ultimately, while 7/27 isn't quite as loose or as fun as one might hope, Fifth Harmony prove they can balance youthful swagger with grown-up sophistication.

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