From spreading their Wings to creating Sweet Melody(ies), what gave this girl group the ultimate career in pop?
Little Mix has become one of Britain’s national treasures. Uniting the North and the South with their cross-border makeup, fighting social injustices and ultimately creating some of pop’s catchiest hits, the Little Mix girls have had a stellar decade so far. Where many groups have bailed before, Little Mix persevered and have hit this major musical milestone. And although ten years is a rather short timeframe to associate with legacy, Little Mix’s achievements have placed them within the golden circle of girl groups. But the group has also come up against struggles within their personal and professional careers. They have faced ridicule for their performance wear, tackled vicious online trolling and bullying, as well as struggled to break into overseas charts despite their visible talent. However, these difficulties have allowed them to use their influence for good, addressing female empowerment, LGBTQ+ rights, body positivity, and most recently, racism within the music industry.
It feels like so long ago when families across the UK watched Perrie, Jade, Leigh-Anne and Jesy each week on the X-Factor live shows. The brightly-coloured outfits, wacky hair-styles, and snazzy sneakers became synonymous with early 10s fashion, similar to former X-Factor performers gone before. Over the eleven weeks, their evolution and progression in terms of sound, appearance and harmony produced “the next big girl band”, stirring industry professionals across the country. And following their success as the winners of Series 8, their lives changed immediately overnight. Adopted into the X-Factor family, their relentless first year as a group saw the release of debut single, Wings, a national tour, merchandise deals and the beginnings of their first album as a group. Wings set the benchmark for later success, debuting at Number 1 on the UK Singles Chart in August of 2011.
Their debut album DNA gave the girls a standout identity, positioning them as the up-and-coming namesake for modern girl groups. A year of touring, international promotional campaigns and sponsorship deals didn’t stop the band from working hard to produce their sophomore album, with the groups’ second record Salute being released not even a year after their first.
Little Mix Touring on the DNA UK Tour in 2013 [Image Source]
Whether this was devotion to their craft or powerful influence from the label, Little Mix seemed to be going the extra mile and burning the candle at both ends. Touring relentlessly in an attempt to break America proved too much for the band in 2014. They decided to cancel the North American leg of the Salute Tour to focus on writing for their next album, one we now know as fans as Get Weird. And in the months that followed, they confirmed that they had written over one-hundred songs for this then-untitled third release. But was this possibly a red flag warning us that Little Mix was struggling to define their sound and identity again? Only time would tell.
The band’s third album, and their feature single Black Magic, was a career-defining moment for the girls. Featuring collaborations with major music stars like Jason Derulo and Sean Paul, it seemed like Little Mix had finally reached a legitimate level of stardom and influence. As a fan, however, this was the era that didn’t feel authentically like Little Mix. The entire sound and brand of the album itself was a stark contrast to their first two releases, channeling a more chart-reared, exec-appeasing sound. Though a change and evolution of genres and identity is normal and accepted for musical artists, the Get Weird era is one with which many fans struggle to associate with.
Another tour came and went, visiting Europe, Australia and Asia. The absence of North and South American dates was a punch in the gut for fans across the pond, this being the second time that Little Mix had chosen not to tour there. This neglect and lack of focus in promoting their music in the US has been one of the group’s biggest mistakes. Last year, Jade even said that their lack of success in this territory was “a bitter pill to swallow”.
The 84-day gap between the end of their Get Weird tour and the release of their fourth album Glory Days, at the time, seemed bizarre. It still seems bizarre now. While “Shout Out To My Ex” is probably the band’s biggest single in terms of success, winning them Best British Single at the 2017 Brit Awards, it became more apparent just how much influence their label Syco Music was having. For the majority of 2017, the girls were on tour and it felt like they were working non-stop at the behest of the label.
This constant and vicious cycle of album releases and touring was the norm for Little Mix, producing four albums and headlining and supporting seven concert tours in five years. While I understand that some artists are *that* passionate about their music and promotion, to myself and many other Little Mix fans, it didn’t seem all that normal.
Their fifth studio album LM5 (2018) is one of my dear favourites and it’s because you could and still can visibly hear and see the difference in the group’s enthusiasm and brand. The record’s lead single “Woman Like Me” proved that the girls were about so much more than just the music. The continuation of making music all about female empowerment seemed to be the focal point for LM5 and it worked a treat. It was also at this time that Little Mix announced they would be leaving Syco Music and future records would be released by RCA UK and Columbia.
A lot was revealed about how Syco treated the girls throughout their time with the label, from urging them to schmooze and flirt with music executives to get their music played on the radio in the US, and telling them to not write their own music. These revelations gave some more meaning to the band’s previously hectic work schedules and the move to a new label seems to have worked hugely in the group’s favour.
The group won their second Brit Award in 2019 (Best British Video) and this was the first year Little Mix looked to be more relaxed and focus on other avenues. In 2020, the girls began filming a reality television music competition series (Little Mix The Search). Jesy’s documentary Odd One Out won a National Television Award. And in late March, the band released the lead single for their upcoming sixth studio album, Break Up Song.
Everything was going hugely well for the group before the inevitable impact of Covid-19. But this didn’t stop the girls from doing what they loved and the band continued to release singles, film music videos and perform virtually. Their sixth album Confetti was released in November last year, with Leigh-Anne calling it their “biggest” thus far.
Promotion and publicity for this album was a lot more visible, with the group hosting the 2020 MTV Europe Music Awards and getting weekly appearances on terrestrial television via their reality show. The big warning sign though was Jesy’s absence from the hosting gig at the MTV awards and the final of Little Mix The Search. Fans knew something wasn’t quite right but certainly did not expect the events that occurred.
On 14th December 2020, Jesy announced that she would be leaving Little Mix due to mental health struggles, something she had made more apparent through her critically acclaimed documentary, Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out. With this news, fans across the globe were devastated and sent their support to Jesy and the other girls. Jade, Perrie and Leigh-Anne also announced that they would continue as a trio.
After an amazing 9 years together Jesy has made the decision to leave Little Mix. This is an incredibly sad time for all of us but we are fully supportive of Jesy.— Little Mix (@LittleMix) December 14, 2020
Since then, the last six months or so have seen the group reach a level of success and energy that many music artists struggle to achieve: being the first girl group to win Best British Group at the Brit Awards, being the most-played group and sixth overall on UK radio in 2020, and critical acclaim for Leigh-Anne’s recent documentary Race, Pop and Power.
In a time where many groups would struggle to recover, Little Mix has continued to thrive. Their tenth year in the music biz is certainly destined to be one of their biggest and brightest yet. And despite the troubles of the last eighteen months, the girls are even carving personal lives that visibly enrich and inspire so many.
The music industry can be a hard place for women to feel heard and succeed. Little Mix are no stranger to backlash and controversy because of their wardrobe choices. They hit back at this criticism by explaining that their freedom with clothing is an extension of their feminist beliefs: an influential and powerful message to send.
This drive to promote body confidence, feminism and positivity makes this group so much more than the trophies and records they have achieved and broken. Though this number is rather impressive – selling over 60 million albums and singles worldwide; 52 award wins and 143 nominations.
A culmination of groundbreaking success and worldwide influence have established Little Mix as the biggest girl group of the 2010s. Let’s hope this trend continues throughout the 2020s and beyond.
Want to write for us?!
Thank you, fellow fangirl!
Your message has been sent and We'll contact you shortly. :)