Little Mix — LM5
X FACTOR alumni tend to face a similar problem to one-time winners Little Mix. Their individual singles tower above similar chart fare but albums tend to be diluted by forgettable ballads and trend-chasing nonsense. Perhaps it’s not surprising a band formed on a game show would take a piecemeal approach: It’s reggaeton week! It’s ballad week! It’s Empowering Female Anthem week!
Little Mix’s fifth album, the perfectly named LM5, hangs together better than last year’s Glory Days but still ricochets wildly between styles. Some elements are pure Little Mix. Their lush harmonies permeate even the minimal half-rapped anthem Strip, which conflates taking make-up off with stripping. The message: you’re sexy just the way you are.
This attitude to self-love is another Little Mix trademark and historically questionable bop Joan Of Arc is a highlight; ‘Oh you on that feminist tip?’ a pitch-shifted voice intones; ‘Hell yeah I am!’ the girls shout back — because, after all, gang vocals are the signifier of feminist pop. LM5 has a handful of songs destined to be hits and feels like a group of best friends welcoming you into their fold.
But the band are constantly trying on different guises to see what fits. Love A Girl Right takes Sisqo’s Thong Song and weaves it into a warning to a new lover that feels like it was intended for Rihanna. Motivate is a quasi Cardi B cut, while More Than Words is a chopped and screwed ballad with a towering chorus reminiscent of King Princess.
Perhaps the beauty of Little Mix is they can change pop styles at will — but, after seven years, maybe it’s time for a sound that is wholly their own.