Why We Should Have Seen Fifth Harmony’s Hiatus Coming a Mile Away
Monday morning (March 19) brought forth the end of an era in pop: Fifth Harmony, the United States' reigning girl group of the 2010s, announced their hiatus. Though heartbreaking for Harmonizers the world over the world over, the statement shared on their Twitter—in which remaining members Lauren Jauregi, Dinah Jane, Normani Kordei and Ally Brooke announced they would take some time to "pursue solo endeavors"—confirmed what so many of us had seen coming.
Camila Cabello's abrupt and shocking departure in December 2016 should have been the first sign of an inevitable 5H dissolution. Without her, Fifth Harmony literally wasn't Fifth Harmony any more. The girls pushed forward—as did their fans—but 5H was always greater than the sum of its parts, and that missing piece left a gaping hole that was impossible to ignore, whether you were Team Camila or Team Normani/Lauren/Ally/Dinah.
And in August 2017, when the new iteration of Fifth Harmony released their self-titled third album, it seemed like the band was simply going through the motions. Reviews for the record pointed to a passing grade—not exactly the bold statement and reinvention the group needed in the wake of Camila's exit. The Guardian wrote that the album felt like "a hastily cobbled together swansong" and a "mixed bag," and Entertainment Weekly opined that it delivered only "a faint aftershock" of the quake made by their 2016 album, 7/27. Overall, it was a lackluster effort.
Meanwhile, over the past few years, the women of Fifth Harmony, though not necessarily growing apart as friends or band mates (Camila aside), found themselves being pulled in different directions musically, another tell-tale sign of the band's weakening foundation as a sonic unit.
Each of them pursued solo music endeavors on the side, a signal that their output as 5H may not have been as creatively fulfilling as they had hoped: Lauren teamed up with Steve Aoki and Halsey; Ally worked on a number of club tracks with Lost Kings and DJ Topic; Normani collaborated with Khalid on an R&B track off the Love, Simon soundtrack; and Dinah released a Latin pop banger alongside RedOne, Daddy Yankee and French Montana. Even before her official departure or record-breaking debut album, Camila released two high-profile collaborations with Shawn Mandes and Machine Gun Kelly, solidifying her potential to break out on her own.
Aside from their one-off music ventures, Fifth Harmony's members also began to seek individual management and representation, while they simultaneously cancelled and postponed events, like their 2018 Australian tour. In October 2017, Normani signed with S10 Entertainment & Media. In January, Billboard reported that Lauren was looking to move from Epic Records to Columbia to release a solo album. Days before the group announced its hiatus, Ally signed with Britney Spears' manager, Larry Rudolph.
Historically, groups formed synthetically via competitions, auditions, castings and TV shows haven't quite lasted, perhaps because they lack the intimate dynamics and interpersonal foundations that come with forming a band organically.
Fifth Harmony, who were formed by Simon Cowell on The X Factor in 2012, are simply following in the footsteps of the manufactured groups who disbanded before them in order to spread their wings as individual musicians: One Direction. t.A.T.u. The Pussycat Dolls. The Wanted. Danity Kane. Spice Girls. (A notable outlier, Little Mix, formed on The X Factor U.K., seem to be stronger than ever.)
Hopefully, the group's hiatus will be just that: a time for Lauren, Normani, Ally and Dinah to grow stronger as individuals, before regrouping when the time is right. But if the break turns into a lasting breakup, with any luck the four performers will achieve fulfillment and success as solo artists.
Former Group Members Who Went Solo: