In 2012, a new singing group formed on the second season of The X Factor USA. Forged in the furnace of a televised talent competition, Fifth Harmony attempted to fill the Spice Girl-sized girl group void—to decidedly meh results.
In a musical landscape of interchangeable teenagers and endless electronic noise, Fifth Harmony actually sticks out as one of the most formulaic, least distinctive fivesomes out there. With the correct number of women and the requisite amount of diversity, Fifth Harmony didn’t explode onto the scene so much as they orbited around it, backed by an allegedly passionate fan base that I can neither confirm nor deny. Technically, they weren’t even that popular—the group didn’t achieve a top 10 single on the Billboard charts until 2016’s “Work from Home,” a song that I thought was about freelancing, but is actually about sexual intercourse.
Ironically, the women behind this ode to half-assed employment are actually acute victims of late-stage capitalism. On Tuesday, a tape leaked that appeared to feature band member Lauren Jauregui complaining to fellow harmonizer Ally Brooke Hernandez. “They are making decisions on a regular basis to fuck us over, to make us literal slaves, like literally slaves, Ally,” says the voice, which sounds like Lauren. In the background, “Ally” can be heard comforting her friend, repeating the phrase “I know” over and over again. This isn’t the first time Jauregui and her bandmates have voiced concerns over their demanding schedules. Over the past few months, the group has cancelled multiple concerts after members appeared to break down onstage. Jauregui recently started crying during a concert, later offering the bland explanation that their lyrics made her “extra emotional.”
But just how stressful is this job? Apparently, pretty freaking stressful.
In a newly relevant May Billboard interview, the girls expressed some pretty valid concerns with “the industry.” “They sell you this present of rainbows and butterflies, and as a 16-year-old that’s what I bought,” Jauregui told the magazine. “It’s why I did X Factor and why I ended up in a group. But then you’re working so hard, so young…[Meanwhile] my friends are in college, telling me about their days and what they’re studying. You’re having to put on a smile on a red carpet. It’s like, ‘Who am I? Am I for myself or for this?’” Fellow group member Dinah Jane Hansen agreed that the group’s grueling touring schedule was highly un-chill. “I love touring, but the schedule traumatized me,” Hansen admitted. “I was like, ‘What kind of job are we doing?’ I watched my great-grandmother be buried on FaceTime. We’re all so family-oriented, and we’ve all lost people on the road.”
Far be it from me to question Simon Cowell’s management style, but being forced to Skype into a loved one’s funeral seems highly abnormal. Luckily, Lauren appears to have found a way to cope with the pressure—pot. Like, lots of pot. Just a week before her tape hit the internet, Jauregui was busted for marijuana possession at Washington Dulles International Airport. The singer, who was en route to a performance in Brazil, got off with a citation. Her attorney told Page Six that, “She will address the matter appropriately through the legal system.”
In a rare burst of activity for the girl group’s Google Alert, Fifth Harmony’s biggest story this December was neither Jauregui’s drug bust nor her leaked tape. That honor goes to Monday’s announcement that Camila Cabello is abandoning ship, heading for the arguably clearer waters of a solo career. The news came courtesy of the Notes app, an unsung hero of 2016.
In a lengthy missive, the remaining Fifth Harmony members shared that, “After 4 and a half years of being together, we have been informed via her representatives that Camila has decided to leave Fifth Harmony. We wish her well.” Note the perfection of that first sentence, with the soon-to-be-iconic phrase “informed via her representatives.” Where was this artistry in any of Fifth Harmony’s singles?
While it’s too soon to say if this will mark the dissolution of Fifth Harmony, the group appears to be burning out fast and bright on a funeral pyre of incendiary press releases and passive aggressive tweets. Cabello followed with her own Twitter statement, insisting that she and her bandmates had been out of synch for quite some time. “I was shocked to read the statement the fifth harmony account posted without my knowing,” Cabello wrote. “The girls were aware of my feelings through the long, much needed conversations about the future that we had during tour. Saying that they were just informed through my representatives that i was ‘leaving the group’ is simply not true.”
Late Monday night, Fifth Harmony clapped back to that clap back with an outright aggressive second statement. “Over the past several months we have consistently made every effort to sit down and discuss the future of Fifth Harmony with Camila,” the missive began. “We called for group meetings which she refused, we asked L.A. Reid and the label to step in and try to set meetings, which again, she refused. We even went as far as group counseling which she did not show up to.” They went on to insist that they really had learned about Cabello’s departure courtesy of her manager, adding, “We were truly hurt.”
But does Camila Cabello have the abs or the range to be the next Zayn Malik? Or will she join Geri Halliwell in a long line of ultimately unsuccessful girl group defectors? Traditionally, aspiring soloists prep for their departures by building up an individual fan base. While Cabello did put in this work, she’s set apart by the speed with which she abandoned her bandmates at the first sign of solo success. It all began when Camila debuted “I Know What You Did Last Summer.” Then she released “Bad Things” with Machine Gun Kelly, which started to slowly climb the Billboard charts. In fact, “Bad Things” recent ascendancy to the #10 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 was clearly a factor in Cabello’s defection. Basically, this girl could barely wait a week after breaking the top ten to leave her girl group in the dust.
In the past, Camila has been candid about the anxiety that has plagued her on tour, telling Billboard that, “Two hours after I woke up, I’d need a nap because my body was so hyperactive.” But anyone looking for a less believable, more sensational explanation for Cabello’s departure need look no further than Taylor Swift, the mastermind behind HiddleSwift. Our favorite blonde Machiavelli may very well have filled Cabello’s head with delusions of solo artist grandeur. Camila was a late addition to the Swift Squad, an assortment of beautiful, famous lady friends as skinny as they are subservient. The former harmonizer made her allegiance clear with a recent TayTay birthday post, dedicated to “an amazing friend and a magical woman.”
While we don’t know exactly what career advice Swift has been feeding her friends, she is a fun person to blame things on. Then again, we can probably just chalk Fifth Harmony’s inevitable demise up to the inexplicable horribleness of 2016.