Now Reading: Women Like Little Mix: How They Still Challenge Expectations


Women Like Little Mix: How They Still Challenge Expectations

October 11, 20189 min read

From the moment Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall, and Jesy Nelson announced their new single “Woman Like Me” with Nicki Minaj, Mixers (fans of Little Mix) were abuzz with excitement.  Apart from their end-of-summer single “Only You” with Cheat Codes, Little Mix has not released any full-length songs in a while; their most recent album, Glory Days, was released nearly two years ago with a re-release in November 2017. The girls’ fifth album, referred to colloquially as LM5 for lack of an official title, has been touted by the members as their “favourite album yet” and “definitely more grown up”.

Little Mix is a talented group of women. They were the first group to win the X Factor UK in 2011 and the first girl band since The Pussycat Dolls to reach the top 5 in the US with their debut album DNA. They are presently one of the biggest girl groups in the world with four platinum albums, over 9 million subscribers on YouTube, and the longest reigning top 40 girl group album on the UK charts. They will undoubtedly deliver an album with strong vocals, lyrics that stick in your brain, and messages about girl power and staying true to yourself. In a recent Instagram story, Perrie is heard singing, “Could you fall for a woman like me?” While the song is about romantic love, these words feel painfully symbolic when it comes to the music industry’s relationship with female artists, and Little Mix in particular.

Despite being wildly successful and adored by many, Little Mix regularly falls victim to scrutiny by the general public. They have many young fans that look up to them, but people still question their potential to be role models. Their first live performance of “Shout Out to my Ex” elicited criticisms of their outfits, and Perrie has always been inexplicably linked with her ex Zayn Malik; not only did she face an onslaught of hate before and especially after he left the group, but even during interviews, the group had to field questions about weddings and relationships rather than discussing their music. This went on to the point where the girls drew attention to the unequal treatment in a radio show prank: Jade protests that they are always asked about male artists when they just want to talk about their work.

Additionally, questions still linger about whether the British girl group will ever officially break America — the group’s sales fluctuate with each album release, and several of their promotions including contests are limited to residents of the UK which limits their reach — as well as whether they will finally receive the recognition they deserve for their hard work.

Not only d0es the general public have high expectations for Little Mix, but their fanbase does as well. While an August poll on their YouTube channel indicates that Glory Days is the most popular album, many fans agree that Little Mix’s sophomore album, Salute, is the most mature in terms of lyrics, composition, and overall mood. The two albums that then succeeded Salute featured more “bubblegum pop” songs, such as “Black Magic” (2015) and “Shout Out to My Ex” (2016), and while fans generally enjoyed Get Weird and Glory Days, they did not believe that either album maintained the maturity that Salute had or that the new album should have.

However, Salute had the least commercial success in the United Kingdom out of all of their albums, and controversy ensued when the American leg of the Salute Tour was canceled altogether. Years ago, fans predicted that this would cause Little Mix to lose momentum in the United States, and even today, many cite this as a potential reason that the group never took off in North America.

There is no doubt in anyone’s mind that Little Mix’s third and fourth albums are still a reflection of the girls, and artists are allowed to experiment with their sound, yet many are convinced that the change is indicative of how artists are relegated into creating works that will be commercially successful rather than meaningful.

This is not exclusive to Little Mix: the former members of Fifth Harmony, their counterpart across the Atlantic, have spoken numerous times about their lack of creative freedom while releasing music as part of the group. Most recently, Dinah Jane Hansen revealed that she was told by executives to “baby [her voice] up” in order to get parts in Fifth Harmony songs. Pop singers, especially female pop singers, are expected to fit a certain mold in order to achieve their dreams, and this trend cannot be attributed to any one artist that is particularly marketable or popular like the girls of Fifth Harmony or Little Mix are. Other artists that have been subject to such treatment include Kesha, music legends like Prince, and even artists in the Latin and Korean music industries. This is due to the fact that every record label wants to reach the widest audience with their artists, and pop artists have the specific role of trying to appeal to popular emotions or experiences.

Clearly, the girls have a lot to live up to this era. Yet, they are certainly capable of defying everyone’s expectations, and not only with their vocals, choreography, or elaborate productions, but also with their character; the members of Little Mix are strong proponents of being yourself, and they appear to have resisted the external pressures that demand they change. With each era, they become more excited about the music they create and deliver an album with a distinctly different feel from the previous one. Also, some other things appear to be different this era: while Little Mix and their label were previously criticized for not interacting with fans enough, they’ve recently been hosting more live streams and posting more sneak peeks of their work. Their #WomanLikeMe campaign has generated a series of posts about women that are cancer survivors, breadwinners and otherwise inspirations to their friends, relatives, and communities.

As always, Little Mix’s goal is to create music that will empower their fanbase, especially their female fans. That will never change even if their sound and style change. Additionally, they appear to be returning to the mature sound that their fans love so much, and more people outside of their fanbase are becoming excited about their upcoming single.

Yes, it is clear that the world certainly could fall for women like Little Mix.

“Woman Like Me” featuring Nicki Minaj will be released on Friday, October 12th, 2018.

Featured Image via Little Mix twitter

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Nadia Bey

Nadia is a student journalist and the current Books Editor for Affinity. In addition to reading, she is interested in science, pop culture and policy.