Little Mix may have landed on the pop scene via that most nefarious of routes – self-assembly on The X Factor –but somehow they’ve become bona fide popstars, enjoying hit after hit, selling out arenas and now – on album number five – reaching a level of fame that dignifies a collaboration with Nicki Minaj.
And as they’ve grown as a girlband they’ve steadily built up a reputation as not only a group who appeal to younger fans (like Girls Aloud and The Saturdays did before them), but also to those who have grown up with them and older listeners. Here, the message is that they’re confident women who use their platform to preach self-love, equality and sisterhood.
‘LM5’, named after the nickname “Mixers” (fans of the group) gave the current era of the girl group, is tinged with R&B and experimental production, and lyrically the most mature they’ve ever been.
‘Strip’ demands that women “jiggle all this weight…sexiest when I’m confident”, preaching the kind of self love you’d want your younger sister to listen to; MNEK produced ballad ‘Told You So’ portrays that special kind of friendship that only exists when you’re going through a particularly bad breakup, and the importance of being there for your friends even if you knew they were dating a fuckboy (“we can put the kettle on/talk ’bout how he’s not the one/I told you/but I’m never gonna say I told you so”) and ‘Joan of Arc’ preaches the value of self love (“I love me so much I put my hands on myself”).
Not all the tunes are total earworms: ‘Monster in Me’ is a cavernous cliché, with the chorus harking back to the band’s reality show days (all that’s missing is a key change), and ‘American Boy’ is an uninspired reggae-laced filler track. And then there’s the bizarre, Sisqó sampling ‘Love a Girl Right’, which feels utterly out of place on the record.
But amid these there are moments of pop sparkle. ‘Wasabi’ is a noughties-influenced cut of minimal electronic beats, with its vivacious spoken word refrains that erupt into roaring punk-laced riffs. And of course there’s the Nicki Minaj collab, ‘Woman Like Me’, a hulking slab of reggaeton.
Girl groups tend to get a hard time, being deemed frivolous and silly, and having unfair labels chucked at them. Yet Little Mix haven’t let this phase them, keeping their heads held high and instead letting their string of mega-hits speak for them. ‘LM5’ is the culmination of the band’s growth over the past seven year. Yes it may sometimes musically miss the mark; but with its strong and relevant message it’s something of a milestone for the band.