Pop stars have made a habit of pilfering of-the-moment hip-hop acts for their singles, a historical trend that most recently has made a meme out of the poor Migos. Any exasperation over the announcement of Fifth Harmony‘s Gucci Mane-featuring single “Down” might have stemmed from this context, not from the fear that the suddenly omnipresent Atlanta OG had overextended himself by agreeing to appear on the now-quartet’s sun-kissed compositions. Guwop’s ear for melody and earworm lyricism figured to be an elastic enough fit, plus his post-prison glow is believable because it’s hard won.
Nonetheless, Gucci’s saga is the B-plot here: “Down” is Fifth Harmony’s first single as a quartet after the passive-aggressive mess of Camila Cabello‘s departure. They largely stay within the framework of “Work From Home,” their biggest ever hit, retaining both that song’s sparse tropical percussions and the group’s love of clichés (“When push comes to shove,” though in their case, push did shove). Still, “Down” isn’t as consistent as their biggest single. While member Normani’s “You the type that I could bake for / Cause baby you know how to take that cake” lyric comes off enticing, the women are ultimately rallying around an anemic hook.
That said, Fifth Harmony does deserve credit for the seamlessness of Gucci Mane’s appearance here; the Bonnie & Clyde theme allows for a PG-rated look into his biography (“When I was sittin’ in the cells is when you showed me / It takes a real one to put up with the old me”). This Fifth Harmony lineup might not quite be there yet, but good art comes from struggle. Gucci Mane had to wait a decade for “Black Beatles.”