Fifth Harmony announced Monday that the girl group would be taking an indefinite hiatus, which, translated from PR speak, means the group is disbanding for good. Fifth Harmony first fractured in 2016, when Camila Cabello left the group to pursue a solo career. Shortly after, Normani Kordei nearly won Dancing with the Stars, and Lauren Jauregui dueted with Halsey on the song "Strangers." It was only a matter of time. Now that the inevitable has occurred, Fifth Harmony's future is indefinite — just like their hiatus.
Historically, the disbanding of a musical group doesn't bode well for its members. There's really only room for one member to rise to supernova status. For N*SYNC, that was Justine Timberlake. For the Spice Girls, it was Victoria Beckham. Destiny's Child gave way to Beyoncé's career, and One Direction ultimately became the Harry Styles vehicle, although a case could be made for Zayn Malik or Niall Horan. (But also, not really. Styles was in Dunkirk.) Even the Jackson 5 was whittled down to just Michael Jackson. By disbanding, a musical group splits the vote, losing fans as each member suddenly demands more attention. Now, fans of Fifth Harmony will have to pick between Lauren Jauregui and Normani Kordei when they purchase concert tickets.
Granted, these breakups also tend to correlate with more interesting careers. A solo artist can manoeuvre in ways a group — which is beholden to the creative integrity of several people, not just one — cannot. N*SYNC's music was good; Timberlake's early solo music was iconoclastic. Styles' first solo record earned a rave review from Rolling Stone, which once called One Direction "simply five pretty guys with a few decent songs and not much personality."
One Direction's path is a good map for where Fifth Harmony will go. The boy group emerged from The X Factor, where they had each auditioned as solo performers. Two years later, Ally Brooke, Camila Cabello, Normani Kordei, Dinah Jane, and Lauren Jauregui had the same experience on the American version of the show. After auditioning as individuals, the show placed the five together, where they stayed until March of 2018. (They haven't always been Fifth Harmony: At first, the group was Lylas. Later, they changed their name to 1432. Then, finally, they became Fifth Harmony.) If Fifth Harmony's post-group work mirrors that of One Direction, then one member will star in an Oscar-nominated film, another will date a world-famous supermodel and attend the Met Gala, and the others will churn out solo albums, each of which induce less and less enthusiasm from fans. With that model, Cabello will be in an Oscar-nominated film (mark my words, it will be West Side Story), Jauregui will enter into a power couple, ideally with Halsey, while Kordei, Brooke, and Jane will all steadily produce good music that — to my dismay — won't get that much attention.
"We are all very excited and grateful to be able to take this time to learn and grow creatively and really find our footing as individuals," the group said in a statement regarding the "hiatus." Although this seems like a pretty definite 'breakup,' Fifth Harmony did leave the option open to regroup, something other pop groups haven't done. (This leads to fun speculation surrounding "reboots" and "getting back together" and "wait, we thought you were broken up?" I'm looking at you, LCD Soundsystem.) Maybe Fifth Harmony will get back together intermittently, which could counteract the breakup curse. Together, they're a sleek, if anodyne, juggernaut. We have no idea what their solo careers will look like, but if home base is this good, something great is coming.
And, in the meantime, there's always Little Mix.