For Fifth Harmony, 2014 was a whirlwind year that started strong and never let up. The all-female five-piece headed out on the road with Demi Lovato in February, kicked off their own headlining tour in late spring, joined Austin Mahone (along with The Vamps and Shawn Mendes) for a national summer tour, and in August claimed the much-coveted Artist To Watch prize at the MTV Video Music Awards. In the midst of all the frenzy—which also included Mattel’s launch of a line of Barbie dolls made in the likeness of each Fifth Harmony member—Dinah Jane Hansen, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke Hernandez, Normani Kordei, and Camila Cabello took to the studio to create their full-length debut for Epic Records. Featuring the fierce, gold-certified lead single "BO$$" and its follow-up "Sledgehammer" (a synth-pop powerhouse penned by Meghan Trainor), Reflection offers up a gutsy, groove-heavy brand of dance-pop built on the most dynamic vocal performances Fifth Harmony have delivered so far.
Like Better Together—Fifth Harmony’s 2013 debut EP—Reflection flawlessly spotlights the vocal synergy Fifth Harmony first revealed in their rise to third place on the second season of X Factor. But this time around, the group worked with lineup of producers that includes Stargate (Beyoncé, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Iggy Azalea), Dr. Luke (Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, will.i.am, Ke$ha), and Rock City (T.I., B.o.B, Nelly) to fuse their breathtaking harmonies with an edgy hybrid of R&B, hip-hop, and electro-pop. Showing off Fifth Harmony’s newly sharpened versatility, Reflection dives into EDM territory on the epic club anthem "This Is How We Roll," turns fiery on the sultry and horn-soaked "Worth It," and gets sweetly starry-eyed with the throwback R&B-pop of "Everlasting Love." Fifth Harmony also pay loving tribute to their musical idols on Reflection, with "Like Mariah" borrowing its breezy vocal melody from Mariah Carey’s "Always Be My Baby" and the unstoppable "Brave Honest Beautiful" encouraging girls to reclaim their confidence and flaunt their fearlessness a la Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna, and Shakira.
Inspiring girls to love themselves and follow their hearts is a major theme on Reflection, and in Fifth Harmony’s overall mission as a group. "Nowadays so many girls are really harsh online and always bringing each other down, so one of the things we try to do is help bring them back together," says Dinah. And as the group’s evolved and grown since forming in summer 2012, their girl-empowering message has become even more nuanced and true to life. "We're all about girl power, but this time we're showing our vulnerable side too," says Normani of Reflection. "We want to girls to know that it's okay to have your soft moments—it doesn't mean you're not strong."
Staying strong during trying times is something Fifth Harmony understand firsthand. While each member auditioned for The X Factor as a solo artist, the five singers were ultimately assembled as a group by Simon Cowell during bootcamp week—a surprise twist that meant turning from strangers to close collaborators overnight. "Our friendships with each other sort of happened backward, where we started out seeing each other at our worst moments," says Camila. "We just wanted to make it to the next round, so we didn’t really have time to be like, ‘Pink is my favorite color too!’ But we ended up bonding pretty fast anyway, because that was our survival."
Despite the chaos, Fifth Harmony quickly discovered they had an undeniable chemistry that’s only continued to thrive post-X Factor. That chemistry’s more than evident on Better Together, an October 2013 release that debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Top 200 and eventually became the highest-charting album from any X Factor contestant in the U.S. Following the EP’s release, Fifth Harmony charmed audiences with performances on The Today Show, Ellen, Arsenio, LIVE With Kelly and Michael, The American Music Awards pre-show, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Closing out 2013 by joining artists like Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Austin Mahone at Jingle Ball Concerts around the country, the group went on to win "Breakout Artist of The Year" and "Best Song To Rock Out To With Your BFF" (for Better Together lead single "Miss Movin’ On") at the 2014 Radio Disney Music Awards in April. Those wins set the stage for Fifth Harmony’s triumph at the 2014 VMAs, a moment that’s still surreal for the group. "For us to win a VMA without even dropping our first album was kind of amazing," says Dinah. "It felt like a dream, and then I woke up the next morning like, ‘Oh my god—I’ve got a Moonman!’" That same month, Fifth Harmony took home the Choice Single: Group award for "BO$$" at the 2014 Teen Choice Awards (and earned six nominations overall). And in November, the group won Best U.S. Act and Best North American Act at the MTV Europe Music Awards, a feat that put them in the running for the Best Worldwide Act prize.
Through all the excitement over the past year, one thing’s stayed constant for Fifth Harmony: the devoted support of the diehard fans who call themselves "Harmonizers." Spanning all age groups and representing countries across the globe, the Harmonizers have helped Fifth Harmony rack up more than 4.2 million Facebook "likes" and over 1.6 million followers on Twitter (not including each member’s highly trafficked individual account). "Staying connected to our fans is really important to us," says Ally of the group’s heavy social media presence. "We go through all the same things that they do, so we try to be their outlet and help them out in whatever ways we can."
As they gear up for the release of Reflection, Fifth Harmony are finding themselves more unified than ever. "Even though we’re all coming from completely different places in terms of our backgrounds, we all share the same goal and know how to work together to reach it," notes Lauren. In bringing Reflection to life, for instance, Fifth Harmony created a fresh new sound by tapping into each member’s eclectic musical tastes: Ally’s idol is Jennifer Lopez, Dinah adores Etta James, Camila’s a serious Taylor Swift fan, Normani’s crazy for Beyoncé, and Lauren leans toward left-of-center songstresses like Amy Winehouse and Lana Del Rey. And by blending that passion for music with their stunning vocal prowess, Fifth Harmony have emerged as a force far greater than the sum of its parts. "We were all independent women to begin with—we were each going to try to be solo artists and make it individually, we all had the courage to do that," says Ally. "But now that we’re a group and all supporting each other, we’re even more powerful than we could ever be on our own."
Miami native Lauren Jauregui, with her mature, smoky voice, brings a fierce and feisty flavor to Fifth Harmony. A lover of Journey, Paramore, and The Script, as well as Alicia Keys and Christina Aguilera, Lauren first remembers singing at a karaoke party at age two, but other than a few school talent shows and a fifth-grade performance of the National Anthem, most of her singing was done in private. "Music had always been a huge part of me but I never had the means to do anything about it," she says. By the time Lauren was 16, The X Factor had debuted. "I ended up trying out because I wanted Simon's approval. It had been my dream to sing for Simon and for him to tell me I was good."
Camila Cabello's unique voice gives the group a raw edge that lifts their harmonies to new heights. Born in Cuba, Camila and her family shuttled between Havana and Mexico for the first five years of her life before Camila and her mother moved to the U.S. when Camila was six. (Her dad followed a few years later.) "My mom came with only a couple hundred bucks and the clothes on her back," Camila says. "My family brought me up to appreciate everything I had through hard work." Growing up listening to such Latin artists as Celia Cruz and Alejandro Fernandez, Camila kept her singing to the confines of her bedroom. "I didn't sing in front of people until my actual X Factor audition," she says. "I didn't want those two minutes to end. When they did, I knew performing was the only thing I could see myself doing for the rest of my life."
Normani Hamilton's bluesy vocal style comes from her roots as a gospel singer. Born in Atlanta, she was raised in the rich musical tradition of New Orleans. (Her family relocated to Houston after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.) Hamilton has been performing since she was three, and was an award-winning dancer and gymnast before finding her true calling as a singer, recording her first single at age 13. She also had a small role on the HBO series Treme. Normani credits Beyoncé as her main inspiration as an artist. "I look up to her so much," she says. "When I'm on stage I pretend to be her. Her alter ego is Sasha Fierce and mine is Beyoncé herself. This helps keep my nerves from getting the best of me because in general I am pretty shy."
Known as the "little big sister" of the group, the San Antonio, TX-born and bred Ally Brooke packs a powerful vocal punch. Her vibrant energy and musical theatricality come from having performed at charity events, high schools, and sports events since the age of nine. "That's when I developed such a huge passion for singing and the stage," she says. One of her biggest inspirations is Latina star Selena Quintanilla. "Not only did she have an amazing stage presence, a beautiful voice, and a vibrant personality, but she also had such charisma and a big heart," Ally says. "She cared for her fans deeply and always showed so much love to everyone. She made me want to become an artist."
With a dynamic range that has drawn comparisons to Beyoncé and Alicia Keys, Dinah Jane Hansen hails from Santa Ana, CA and is of Tongan and Polynesian heritage. Her mother sang with a reggae band and her brothers sang in church. Dinah remembers being four years old and wanting to learn to sing to impress her mother. At 11, she told her parents she wanted to pursue a singing career. "The first time I performed I remember feeling so nervous and scared," Dinah says. "I was behind the curtains and I could hear the announcer say my name. All I could think was, 'I hope they like me, I hope they don't boo.' But they applauded and I remember thinking this is definitely something I want to do one day."