In August, Tiffany Haddish directed a particularly harsh joke toward Fifth Harmony at the MTV Video Music Awards, where the pop group’s former bandmate, Camila Cabello, was up for five VMAs.
“I’m super proud of her,” the comedian said. “So those of you watching at home... hi, Fifth Harmony.”
Unsurprisingly, the burn didn’t go over well with Fifth Harmony’s remaining members: Normani, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke and Dinah Jane. (“Waiting for the day when supporting one successful dope woman does not mean insult to other successful dope women,” Jauregui tweeted.) Haddish’s joke recalled a narrative that dates to the group’s days on The X Factor, where the members had initially auditioned as solo performers before the judges decided they should compete as a group.
Even before Fifth Harmony rose to pop fame, after finishing third on the reality competition show’s second season, Cabello was widely seen as the star, the “one who shined” — as X Factor judge Demi Lovato once declared after one of the group’s early performances. Haddish’s joke was a reminder that the other members of Fifth Harmony, who are starting to find success in their own solo careers, continue to be underestimated.
A clip of Lovato’s 2012 remarks made the rounds after Cabello’s exit was announced in a December 2016 statement from Cabello’s former bandmates, who said Cabello had informed them of her departure “via her representatives.” The drama continued from there — Cabello was clearly surprised by the statement and issued her own, saying it was “simply not true” that her reps had delivered the news.
There were rumours of jealousy (the public-imposed curse of most girl groups), and the remaining members stoked the flames at the 2017 VMAs, where they pointedly ejected a fifth stand-in from the stage before performing.
But in the months following, the members of Fifth Harmony, past and present, seemed to move on as Cabello enjoyed the success of her debut album, particularly the chart-topping lead single, Havana, and her former bandmates began making moves of their own.
In March, Fifth Harmony announced it would go on indefinite hiatus as the group’s members pursued solo careers. And they have done just that — with promising efforts that prove all of them are worthy of keeping an eye on.
Take, for example, Jauregui’s first solo single, Expectations, which was released to largely favourable reviews. Billboard said the track — marked by Jauregui’s smoky vocals and soulful guitar riffs — “demands the world take her seriously as a solo artist,” and placed it third on its ranking of 15 solo efforts from the group’s members.
Incidentally, Havana takes the top spot on Billboard’s list, followed by Normani’s first solo effort, Love Lies, which was released in February and features rising star Khalid. (Normani also released two well-received songs, Slow Down and Checklist, with Calvin Harris this week.)
So far, Normani and Jauregui, who previously collaborated with Halsey, Marian Hill and Steve Aoki, are standouts. But Brooke, whose solo single Perfect debuted in January, has teased an upcoming album. And Jane’s debut, Bottled Up, was released in September, a month after Variety reported the singer had signed a deal with Hitco, the label founded by former X Factor judge LA Reid.
These women will inevitably find varying degrees of solo success. Cabello, who just released her debut album’s third single, Consequences, may very well end up being the biggest star after all. But how refreshing would it be for all the women of Fifth Harmony to finally be able to fully chart their own paths, free of the post-breakup drama that often seemed as manufactured as the group itself? Especially when — as Haddish’s joke highlighted — women are often pitted against one another in the music industry, as though the success of one artist means the failure of another.
As Jauregui noted following that VMA diss, “There is energy and space for us all to beautifully coexist and bless the world with our individual truths, stories and talents.”