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Concert Review: Fifth Harmony at Comerica Theatre

Do you know the secret language of hair flips?

Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane Hansen, Camila Cabello, and Lauren Jauregui — the five ladies of Fifth Harmony — have the same length of locks. They reach just short of halfway down their backs. Most women recognize this as just beyond the bra strap (alternatively: long enough to always get stuck in the armpits). It’s really the requisite length to get a good flip. And this is important. These women’s hair is part of their uniform — or costume, if you will. They flip their hair after they finish their verses — passing the baton to another group member. They flip their hair when they’re just dancing around by themselves, keeping themselves relevant while waiting for their turn to sing. They flip their hair between smiling and making hand-hearts for camera-holding fans near the front of the stage. They pointedly flip their hair before exiting stage right, effectively ending the show. Hair flipping is an important part of Fifth Harmony’s culture. It’s somewhat powerful in its indifference while also being cute enough to not be rude.

Here’s their story: All five members auditioned as soloists in 2012 for X Factor USA. None of them made it very fair as individuals, but singer Demi Lovato and human Grumpy Cat Simon Cowell put the five young women together to form a “supergroup” that eventually would place third in the second season of the show’s groups category.

This wouldn’t be the last time this group of aspiring performers’ fates were left up to Hollywood. The show named the group, then renamed it, and finally left it up to viewers to name the group. The final verdict, following LYLAS (Love You Like a Sister) and 1432 (I Love You Too), was Fifth Harmony.

Ultimately, the group finished in third place. But, as Americans know, losing a televised singing show has worked out for quite a few people (Jennifer Hudson, for example).
In early 2013, after the show concluded, the group stayed together to perform YouTube covers. They played an American mall tour and a few other strings of shows that could half-qualify for headlining. The Summer Reflections Tour, which brought them to Phoenix on Friday night to support their debut full-length, is the group’s first major headlining tour.

This was the Reflection Tour. And, indeed, these girls were reflections of one another (see above for hair description), despite their attempt to make themselves seem wildly different. They do have different performing styles, and all of them are strong in their different “genres” of singing. Ally Brooke Hernandez let out a Mariah Carey-level high F meant to induce goosebumps on anyone with ears. When it came to dance moves, each Harmony member had her own set of approved motions. One girl was on twerk duty. Another was only allowed to bowleggedly kick around. Another girl had the twirly grind motion cornered.

Five ladies = five heads weighed down by long locks and 10 crazy strong thighs that never seemed to get tired after twerking and jumping around in crystal stilettos for 20 minutes at a time. Fifth Harmony’s songs are, mostly, body-positive and rose-colored relationship outlook types.
Fifth Harmony, a Cowell brainchild hatched by way of X Factor, released its debut full-length album, Reflection, in February on Syco Music (Cowell’s label) and Epic Records (X Factor judge L.A. Reid’s label). Three of their singles went platinum with more than one million downloads each. These women are, truly, talented. They’re also brilliant. There will undoubtedly be five new solo artists who branch out from this pop culture-crafted money maker of a supergroup. That said, the choreography was terrible for the first half of the show. It was like watching a well-funded talent show performance. The chemistry really did seem off between the girls as well. This isn’t the Pussycat Dolls, where the girls were accomplished “actresses” before becoming a group, and it’s definitely not the Barbie-branded Spice Girls, where the girls' personalities were ingrained into the group's identity like spices on a rack. Fifth Harmony falls more in line as an overly calculated, less organic Destiny’s Child, which had decades of chemistry to bring to the stage during its heyday. This was a good effort for Cowell, though, who could probably see that at least some of these girls will be able to stand alone when it comes time for a haircut.

Opening act 16-year-old Bea Miller was another Cowell project, who finished ninth on the second season of the X Factor USA. Her cover of Nick Jonas’ “Chains” was worth sitting through her set. Her voice has a Janis Joplin patina. It’s soft, but has been lightly scrubbed with gravel. It’s sultry, but not sexy. And, she looked the opposite of Fifth Harmony in their glittery blue body suits wearing an oversized white T-shirt, jeans and Timberland boots. Another X Factor by-product, though, even Miller couldn’t get away from occasional hair flipping.

Critic’s Notebook

Last Weekend: Fifth Harmony at Comerica Theatre on August 7

The crowd: Primarily shorter than 5 feet tall. Quite a few glow stick tiaras and girls who were giggling about wearing makeup for the first time while Snapchatting what seemed to be every other thought that crossed their minds.

Overheard: Hundreds of children giggling

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Bias: I attended this concert two days after my 26th birthday. I’m sure this was some kind of ageist crisis. I was hoping to absorb some youth by way of osmosis. (Now, they’ll never let me attend another all-ages show again.)

Set Lists
Bea Miller
“Perfect Picture”
“Young Blood”
“Paper Doll” (first live performance of this song)
“Chains” (Nick Jonas cover)
“Fire N Gold”

Fifth Harmony
“Going Nowhere”
“Miss Movin’ On”/ “We Will Rock You” / “Bad Blood” / “BBHMM” Medley
“Suga Mama”
“Them Girls Be Like”
“Top Down”
“Better Together”
“This Is How We Roll”
“Brave Honest Beautiful”
“Like Mariah”
“We Know”
“Who Are You”
“Want To Want Me/Dreamlover”
“Everlasting Love”
“Worth It”

“Body Rock”

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