Why America Should Embrace a New Girl Group

A version of this post appeared in The Huffington Post.

It’s been quite the hot minute since pop culture has glorified “girl power.” At least that’s what Simon Cowell thinks. The concept most recognizably takes the form of a young female pop group as it skyrockets to the top of the charts.

Now not since Beyonce decided Destiny had only one child, have we seen the rise of a talented world-famous girl group. That’s why Cowell has manufactured one out of five quirky, talented, young vocalists from all over the country who auditioned for the current season of The X Factor. Together, Fifth Harmony are supplying a healthy dose of “girl power,” and they best continue whether they win the reality TV singing competition or not.

Unlike the Spice Girls, another set of manufactured girl-empowered pop stars, the Fifth Harmony gals comes off as genuine despite their quickly increasing production value. Their rendition of Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen” (video above) was like something you’d see at the VMAs. The dresses, the ballon table, the fairy waiters, everything was bombastically saccharine, reminiscent of Katy Perry’s current cotton candy craze, yet it did not feel sticky nor cringe-worthy. In fact, if anything, whereas late twenty-something Perry comes off ridiculous wearing cupcakes for bras, Fifth Harmony’s princess-inspired performance was the epitome of age-appropriateness, their Sweet Sixteen.

The new girl group first made their pink-tinged splash performing for Cowell (and Marc Anthony?) at the producer’s home. Considering the five girls originally auditioned as solo artists and proved their place in the preliminary sing-offs, it’s no surprise their joined-force rendition of “Impossible” (video below) showed that behind the cutesy, girly personas were truly powerhouse singers with an affinity for catchy vocal stylings. It was X-Factor fate that these five super talented teens would one day join forces and perform. Perhaps reality TV does have its place as the only stage where stars this big ever come across each other’s paths and join to become supernovas. How else would five star-quality singers meet and decide to pursue a recording contract?

Week after week to hear each Fifth Harmony member pull her weight in the vocal department was extremely gratifying, especially being truly discerning about not being enough talent currently on television (Britney Spears didn’t deserve the $15 million salary to be an X-Factor judge and Khloe Kardashian didn’t deserve her 15 minutes of fame to play host).

And it’s not just their impressive voices that sets them apart from girl group gone by. Fifth Harmony’s girlish spark is a refreshing alternative to the current state of female pop star affairs. The last American girl group to gain fame was made up of one hyper-sexualized singer (who also recorded all the background vocals) surrounded by an actual horde of strippers. And as if that wasn’t demeaning enough, the Pussycat Dolls inspired copy cats, the Dolls themselves the obviously unoriginal knock-off of the sleazy Vegas burlesque show by the same name, setting up a debased template for how girl groups should be.

In their X-Factor live shows, Fifth Harmony has chosen to perform songs about first love, heartbreak, friendship and… well, girl power. Twice they belted out songs originally performed by X-Factor judge Demi Lovato. In both instances, Lovato confessed the five singers did a better job, as if the songs were written specifically for them. Which makes sense seeing how Disney-fit Fifth Harmony is.

In that sense, Fifth Harmony is modeled more similar to the British girl group tradition, responsible for initiating the girl power wave with the Spice Girls. Unlike Aubrey O’Day and friends, you never saw the members of The Sugarbabes, Girls Aloud or All Saints use a stripper pole in their dance routines. More recently, X-Factor UK contestants Little Mix joined this sorority for the squeaky clean but quirky.

In a time when teen girls get promised national attention for getting pregnant rather than for following their dreams, and sex tapes seem to be the fast track to fame, the voices of Fifth Harmony deserve to be loud. We can only hope that, even if they go home next week, they will continue to make music. If only because I want my sisters to grow up knowing that it’s not impossible for five talented sixteen-year-old girls to take over the world, big bows and all.

BOY TOYS TALK BACK: Who do you think will win X-Factor USA?

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