Little Mix are the most successful X Factor winner in the show’s 11 seasons. Unlike most of the other winners, who were dropped or left the Syco label, Little Mix haven’t disowned the show that made them famous. Amazingly, they have carved out a career without the stigma usually attached to graduates of talent shows.
Little Mix’s level of success has been consistent with two platinum albums and every single making the top 15, but there’s a feeling that they could be bigger. It’s hard not to make comparisons to the trajectory of Girls Aloud‘s career. They were a band that also managed to escape the talent show label and had consistent success and critical acclaim. It took the release of the Girls Aloud singles collection for them to have a huge selling album and the release of 2008’s ‘The Promise’ for it to feel like they were one of the biggest bands in the country. Little Mix’s third album, Get Weird has had the same push Girls Aloud received at those times. The release of ‘Black Magic’ back in July was the sound of Little Mix aiming for the big leagues.
Following recent pop trends of Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift, ‘Black Magic’ takes its cues from glossy 80s pop. As enjoyable as ‘Black Magic’ is, it feels like a slight step back for the group. Little Mix’s second album, Salute, has an amazing lead single ‘Move’, which was all attitude and had a thrilling minimal R&B chorus and a brilliant breakdown. In comparison, ‘Black Magic’ was a safe single choice. It’s very slick and polished compared to most of the cool 90s R&B that made Salute a good album. It was no surprise when ‘Black Magic’ spent three weeks at number one. ‘Get Weird’s second single, ‘Love Me Like You’ is even safer, and is immediately familiar with its laidback 60s girl band sha la la las and its ‘Be My Baby’ inspired chorus. Thankfully there are some songs on Get Weird where they’ve taken some risks (which is implied by the band saying the album title is representative of the music).
‘Weird People’ is inspired by LoveSexy era Prince and is one of the best songs Little Mix have released. The chorus, “weird people on the dance floor, we’re just doing what we came to do” is so catchy and addictive it’ll have people signing up to the Little Mix fanclub everywhere. It joins the mysterious ‘Lightning’ as the direction they should be heading, maintaining their personalities and edge that make them entertaining. ‘Hair’ is another highlight with its not so subtle lyrics, “Gotta get him out my hair” which could be aimed at absolutely anyone (that was once a member of One Direction).
‘O.M.G‘ starts off sounding similar to ‘Fancy‘ by Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX, right down to when they sing, “oh my gosh I did it again” as if they’re mimicking Charli. It’s not quite as blatant a ‘Fancy’ rip off as the disappointing ‘Pretty Girls’, which Little Mix co-wrote for Britney Spears and Azalea earlier this year. The innuendo filled ‘A.D.I.D.A.S‘, musically sounds like a much less irritating Meghan Trainor. Leigh Anne’s rap provides an album highlight. The delivery of the line, “I’ve been Googling ways to keep you entertained” is a wonderful pop moment.
Little Mix haven’t yet had their perfect winter ballad released for the festive season (think ‘2 Become 1’ by Spice Girls, ‘Never Ever’ by All Saints or ‘Too Lost In You’ by Sugababes). On Get Weird they’ve come very close with the help of Jason Derulo on ‘Secret Love Song’. Rumoured to be the third single, it would be another perfect fit and safe single choice. I can see them all dressed in white on The X Factor stage as the fake white snow around them falls, minutes before the winner is announced. It’s a really lovely song that’s the best of the ballads on Get Weird. ‘Love Me or Leave Me’ is also very touching, with Perrie Edwards and Leigh Anne giving brilliant vocals. Each member gets more individual moments to shine than previous albums.
Often the music on Get Weird goes off in many directions, which is the main thing stopping Little Mix from being as brilliant as they should be. They are yet to define their sound in a way that other great bands have. Get Weird isn’t as cohesive as Salute was and doesn’t always sound as convincing; it’s like they’re holding something back. Little Mix sounded more in control of their direction on Salute.
At this same stage in Girls Aloud’s career, they’d grown in confidence and made their masterpiece, Chemistry. It was an album that took huge risks and played to their strengths at the same time. Get Weird isn’t Little Mix’s masterpiece and it’s not quite as daring and exciting as Salute often was. It’s very likely to be their most successful release so far. This is a good record with enough moments to suggest they’ll one day make a great one – with any luck, one that will fully Get Weird.