BY TRICIA DESPRES | FOR THE SUN-TIMES
Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei doesn’t recall the year (1996) the iconic girl group Spice Girls arrived in the states and pretty much took over the music world with their Platinum-selling single “Wannabe.”
Heck, she had just been born.
Yet, the feisty singer from Georgia has had the smarts to recently connect with one of those Spice Girls to gain wisdom from someone who has been on a similar ride through the cut-throat business of pop music as part of a five-piece girl group created by a male music industry heads.
With: Jacob Whitesides, Jasmine V and Mahogany Lox
When: 7 p.m. March 14
Where: The Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield
Tickets: SOLD OUT
“She is a close friend of mine,” Kordei says quietly of Melanie Brown, AKA Mel B. and “Scary Spice.”
“I have talked to her a lot about my confidence. It can be hard not to compare yourself to the four other girls that do the same thing you can do. She always reminds me to believe in myself. Everyone is an individual and created beautifully, but what they offer can be different.”
It’s a sentiment that probably every member of Fifth Harmony has had to remind themselves of since they were brought together by Simon Cowell when the five auditioned separately for the second season of music reality show “X Factor.” Since finishing third on the show, Fifth Harmony members Kordei, Dinah Jane Hansen, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke Hernandez and Camila Cabello, have been out on tour with Demi Lovato and Austin Mahone and won the coveted “Artist to Watch” prize at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. They even launched a line of Barbie dolls made in their likeness, just like the Spice Girls did sixteen years earlier.
From all indications, Fifth Harmony seems to have all the components to follow in the footsteps of the iconic girl groups that have come before them. They are all talented in their own right (check out their new record “Reflection”). They are selling out shows on their current headlining tour (including a stop at the Vic March 14). They are even making famous, powerful friends (Cabello celebrated her 18th birthday on March 3 alongside Taylor Swift).
Their still-evolving maturity (“we love the Chicago Bulls and Chicago pizza!”) and the often tough realization that the music business isn’t as glamorous as they might have once thought (“it’s not all chocolates and roses”) seems to be keeping this group in a bit of a fragile stage.
“It can be very intimidating being surrounded by a bunch of older people,” Kordei says. “It can be really hard in this industry. You can’t really tell who really has your best interests in mind. You have to have the confidence to speak up and let people know that just because we are young doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion.”
And while the group boasts of millions of Twitter followers, they have also experienced firsthand the Catch-22 of today’s social media-driven world. “As easy as you can look up a bunch of great comments and think that you must be doing something right, you can also find a bunch of stuff that people don’t like about you, and it hurts a lot,” Kordei says. “It can play with your mind. It’s great to be able to instantly communicate with your fans, but the negativity that comes with it can be tough.”
Fifth Harmony continues to sell-out venues and produce hits such as the gold-certified lead single “BO$$” and the Meghan Trainor-penned single “Sledgehammer” and these days, that just might be enough.
“As a group, I feel like we have really arrived,” says Kordei. “We have really been hands on in terms of the decision-making this time around. Everything is going really great.”
Tricia Despres is a local freelance writer.