TORONTO —; Fifth Harmony is hitting all the right notes. The pop vocal group’s album Reflection, released at the beginning of February, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 chart —; putting Fifth Harmony in the company of acts like Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith.
A 2013 EP from Fifth Harmony reached No. 6 on the same chart and the group’s videos have racked up a combined 100 million views.
Named Artist to Watch at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards, Fifth Harmony has opened on tours for acts like Cher Lloyd, Demi Lovato and Austin Mahone.
The second single “Sledgehammer,” co-written by Meghan Trainor (“All About That Bass”) and hitmakers Jonas Jeberg and Sean Douglas, is a pulse-pounding earworm about being head over heels in love.
The early success of Fifth Harmony is music to the ears of Normani Kordei, who has wanted to be a star since she was a child in New Orleans and Houston.
“I’m so grateful because I feel like everything that I did before prepared me for this moment,” Kordei told Global News. “I feel like I’m ready and I feel comfortable. I’m ready for this moment.”
She passed on a chance to audition for the first season of The X Factor to take part in a dance competition and only auditioned for season two because her mother convinced her she had nothing to lose.
“I was so scared,” Kordei recalled. “I used to be really nervous to perform in front of people. I would cry.”
She impressed the judges and was put through, but eventually cut from the competition.
“I was sad because I was [going] back to auditioning and vocal lessons,” said Kordei. “But I was really proud of myself for making it that far.”
Normani Kordei, second from right, and the other members of Fifth Harmony. Handout
Normani Kordei, second from right, and the other members of Fifth Harmony.
The X Factor‘s Simon Cowell wasn’t willing to let Kordei go that easily. He teamed her with four other contestants —; Ally Brooke Hernandez, Dinah Jane Hansen, Camila Cabello and Lauren Jauregui —; and let them compete in the groups category.
Kordei insisted she had no mixed feelings about going from a solo artist to part of an ensemble.
“I’d always wanted to be in a group,” she said, listing acts like Destiny’s Child, TLC and En Vogue as inspirations. “That’s always what I envisioned.”
The five singers gelled quickly, she recalled. “We connected and we had chemistry.”
The group finished third on The X Factor but earned a deal with Cowell’s Syco Music and Epic Records. Since then it’s been a whirlwind of performing, recording and making videos.
“We’ve gotten to do so many things and go to so many different places that we wouldn’t have been able to go to or do before,” Kordei said. “We performed at the VMAs, which is crazy because we grew up watching that show and all of our inspirations and idols were there.
“Also, we got to perform in front of the President, which is crazy.”
Kordei also got a quick lesson on the power of fame and “being able to inspire so many people and have them walk up and say ‘You saved me. You make me feel happy.’”
BELOW: Watch the video for Fifth Harmony’s “Sledgehammer.”
Who’s the funniest in the group? “All of us have funny moments at different times,” she replied diplomatically. “There’s not one that’s the funniest. It depends on the situation.”
Kordei is quick, though, to name the messiest (“definitely Camila”), the most tardy (“Dinah and Camila”), the pickiest eater (“Ally and I”) and the shyest (“In the beginning, Dinah and I”).
Kordei said the biggest lesson she has learned is “how much work it is” to develop Fifth Harmony.
“People see it from the outside and think it happened overnight but it’s definitely not that way. It takes time and a lot of hard work. It’s a bunch of stuff.”
In the first single from Reflection, “BO$$,” Fifth Harmony’s members sing about being “independent” women with confidence. But it’s a song co-written by five men (along with Taylor Parks). Indeed, like the girl groups that came before it, Fifth Harmony is largely the product of male minds.
Kordei insisted she and the other members have some say.
“They’ve given us a lot of input and they really care about our opinions as far as the music,” she explained. “Ultimately they make the final decisions but they do listen to what we have to say and they want to know how we feel and they definitely incorporate that into whatever decision they make.”
Kordei added all five young women have “a bunch of input” in their styling, hair and makeup.
She said her iPod is filled with tracks from the R&B artists she grew up on —; Brandy, Aaliyah, Toni Braxton and Destiny’s Child. “I love Alicia Keys, Chris Brown, Usher, Mariah Carey… all that stuff.”
Kordei is also a fan of social media and has already amassed close to 900,000 followers on 广州蒲友. (Fifth Harmony has more than 1.8 million 广州蒲友 followers.)
“It helps to reach out to fans that you can’t necessarily get to in the moment, like fans in Australia or fans in Japan or wherever,” she said. “It’s great that we’re able to communicate with them through social media.”
Some fans in Canada will soon get a dose of Fifth Harmony. The group is currently rehearsing for a tour that includes a March 17 show at the Sound Academy in Toronto.
“It’s going to be awesome. We love Canada,” said Kordei, who recalled previous performances in Montreal and Toronto.
“We’re trying to take it to the next level. There’s going to be bigger production, there’s going to be better costumes. It’s just going to be bigger and better.”
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