2014 was the year the lineup was famously chosen by Simon Cowell and Antonio “L.A.” Reed on the show X-Factor. The girls tried to name their group twice, however the first name (LYLAS- Love You Like A Sister) was already taken, whereas the judges hated the second (1432- pager code for “I love you, too”). Hence, Simon asked viewers to submit ideas for the name online. The group then took on the name “Fifth Harmony”, got third place and came to a deal with Reid’s Epic Records and Cowell’s Syco Music.
Fast forward to 2016, the year when the group had their biggest hit yet, but eventually ended harshly for them as Camila Cabello dropped out from the group to pursue a solo career. Last year’s 7/27 debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, propelled by “Work From Home,” the first top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit from a girl group in nearly a decade.
“Try experiencing it.” Jauregui told Billboard. “I was literally going to say that,” Kordei added. “I get to sleep at night knowing we did everything in our power as friends, bandmates and human beings” to make it work. Hernandez further mentioned, “You can’t change people.” “Let’s just say we’re in a better place now — there are no secrets in this circle.” Hansen said. The group also talked about their ongoing 7/27Tour and their third album that is due later this year on Epic. “Honestly, in this very moment, we could not be happier,” said Hernandez. Their first new single as a foursome, “Down” reached No. 42 on the Hot 100. Meanwhile, Cabello’s “Crying in the Club” peaked at No. 47. Both are still active on the Mainstream Top 4o list. The 5H video raked 21.6 million in mere two weeks, for which they came up with their own lyrics, which came to them from “Work From Home” co-creators Ammo and Dallask. “We dedicate it to each other,” told Hansen. “We’ve been together five years, so that message is powerful to us. We’ve been there for each other through ups and downs.”
5H is co-writing their songs for the first time, half of which are part of the new album. The group basically splits to take turns with the writers and producers like 5H alums Monsters & Strangerz and pop and R&B producers Harmony Samuels (Ariana Grande) and Sebastian Kole (Alessia Cara). “It’s not like they came in at the end and started riffing,” Leah Haywood of Dreamlab told Billboard. “We sat and wrote verses together, because they’re empowered women who want to be pushing the agenda.” Justin Bieber’s go-to hook man Poo Bear added, “I was pretty blown away. They were hungry and excited and seemed like they had a serious new point to prove.”
Jaregui hinted that although girl groups that have lost members have carried on, they haven’t met much success after that. One Direction’s Made in the A.M. being successful even after Zayn Malik’s departure provides a ray of hope. But maybe the industry is just kinder to boy bands. To make some sense of 5H’s name again, Hernandez mentions, “The fans are our fifth member.” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, whose 15-year-old daughter Simone is “pretty tight” with Hansen, says 5H is “aspirational to so many young girls around the world.” He added, “Once the drama [of Cabello’s exit] settles, instead of looking at it as a devastating loss, I look at it as an amazing opportunity for growth.”
Jaregui’s personal journey in the past few months has been interesting as well, as she wrote an open letter to Trump voters in November saying, “I am a bisexual Cuban-American woman, and I am so proud of it … I am proud to feel the whole spectrum of my feelings, and I will gladly take the label of ‘bitch’ and ‘problematic’ for speaking my mind.” In March, Jaregui shared photos from a “coming-out” photoshoot, with her then girl-friend Lucy Vives. She also made a short appearance as a guest on Halsey’s “Strangers”. When asked about the possibility of her singing a 5H song about a relationship with a woman, she wasn’t sure, saying, “because it has to do with me personally. It doesn’t speak for everyone in the group, which is its own entity as an artist. That’s the whole reason for doing your own thing.” Kordei’s story took an interesting turn as well when she participated in Dancing With the Stars. “I grew up dancing competitively and being in pageants, and my grandma made all my costumes and dresses. I remember watching the show on the couch with her, and she’d pause the TV to create sketches based off what she saw,” she said. Recently, Hernandez dropped a summery song with DJ duo Lost Kings and A$AP Ferg. Hansen too, has an unreleased RedOne cut featuring Fetty Wap and French Montana. Apart from this solo work, the group takes 5H as a coming-back point. “Last year, we all learned a lesson about mental health and making sure you step away from something. It just makes this stronger,” said Jauregui. “Fifth Harmony is the home base,” added Kordei, “where we always come back.” “Yasss,” said Hernandez.
The group also shared about the stress they had to face months ago. The day Cabello’s exit was announced, there was also a leak of what seemed to be a recording of Jauregui telling Hernandez the band was treated like “literal slaves.” “I don’t know where that came from,” told Jauregui, “but that’s what the game does to you sometimes: runs you dry.” “We were little girls coming off of a TV show and had a team of people trying to sculpt us into something we weren’t,” Hansen added. “They took advantage, like, ‘Get in there and record this, you thing,’ ” Jauregui further told Billboard. “If you’re told you can’t do something when there’s a creative desire to do it, that’s depressing,” said Geri Horner. “Spice Girls always wrote our own stuff, but I can relate to that.”
5H stressed that the group’s relationship with Epic is now good. The women count among their “saviors” the label’s senior vp A&R Chris Anokute, who came onboard near the end of making 7/27. “We raised our voices,” said Hansen, “and to have someone in our corner like Chris, who believes in us, is the most important element to make the wheels go.”