When Fifth Harmony dropped their feminist anthem "BO$$" in 2014, casual radio listeners might have wondered if Beyonce rejoined Destiny's Child. The tune incorporated the style, themes and feminist confidence of DC classics like "Independent Women Pt. 1" and "Bills Bills Bills," but with modern-day production flourishes.
"Suga Mama" is a purposeful representation of TLC's forward-thinking ideals. 5H detail a relationship, singing, "You tryna take me out / But you can't pay for me / I guess I got the cash / I'll take one for the team," for a modern-day nod to T-Boz, Left Eye and Chili's "No Scrubs." TLC always looked to empower younger girls and when 5H sings, "I can't be your suga mama," it's clear that the advice has been taken.
The Pussycat Dolls debuted on the pop scene with a burlesque obsession, and weaved that throwback influence through songs like "Sway," "Don't Cha," "Hush Hush" and "I Don't Need a Man." Fifth Harmony got into the brass sound with their contribution to the Hotel Transylvania 2 soundtrack, and it sounds like the type of sultry jam PCD would have crafted in the past.
Neon Jungle was a short-lived but super-promising U.K. girl group that was primed to lead a new era of badass female pop acts. Their debut single "Trouble" utilizes a glitchy day-glo beat, as the girls explicitly shout about being trouble since age 17. Fifth Harmony's "This Is How We Roll" is also crafted around also pop production that sounds like it was concocted in an underground lab in London.
While he's worked minimally in the girl-group world, Puff Daddy did create two of the most promising female acts with Dream in 2000 and Danity Kane in 2005. Both troupes were under Bad Boy Records and both were known for serving of slick, R&B-pop jams with a healthy serving of sass (remember "Show Stopper" and "He Loves U Not"?). "Going Nowhere" feels like a nod to these groups, as the girls declare, "Sit yourself down 'cause you know you're going to stay / Boy, you better listen to the words I say, You ain't going nowhere."
And sometimes, you just need a really good pop song. While it didn't help Fifth Harmony solidify themselves on U.S. radio, "Sledgehammer" was an excellent synth-pop jam and reminded us how British quintet the Saturdays can always be counted on for an ace release.
The opening song to Reflection is a delirious banger that begins with a bouncy synth line before breaking into a punchy, saxophone-laden breakdown. The genre- and style-hopping reminds us of some of the best K-pop girl groups--this one in particular recalling the effervescent Girls' Generation, who can always be called on for a bubbly party jam.
En Vogue had some of the tightest harmonies around in the '90s, with their series of jams boasting important messages of self-worth and demanding respect from their dude. "We Know" includes one of the group's best vocal performances to date and shows that they make a guy shaking in his boots when they sing about believing their ladies over him: "I know it probably worked for you last time / But them other girls told me how you play ya game / Yeah we know all about you / Oh, we know we know we know."