LM5, the aptly named fifth studio album from British girl group, Little Mix. The album boasts girl power, togetherness, independence all packaged together with clever wordplay, empowered lyrics and harmonies dripping in gold. But is it Little Mix?
Little Mix burst onto the scene by winning the 8th series of the X-Factor back in 2011. Jesy, Jade, Leigh-Anne and Perrie managed to charm their way into the hearts of the British public and became the first group to win the show. Prior to LM5’s release the girls went on to release 4 top 5 albums and 19 consecutive top 20 singles, selling over 45 million records and truly cementing themselves as pop deities.
LM5 opens with The National Manthem, a short 30 second song that is sung completely acapella and is drenched in Little Mix’s signature harmonies. The group sing of self admiration (She is a bad bitch, made up of magic) whilst informing any potential partners that in order to get with them, they need to be loyal. The song is set to serve as an intro to LM5, and whilst it does the job it could’ve been a bit more than what it was.
Woman Like Me, the album’s lead single follows up next, finally bragging that they managed to get Nicki Minaj on a track (with their label also offering it to Cardi B), it makes sense that this song was chosen as the lead, however it does not come controversy-free.
Woman Like Me was rumoured to be the final straw as to why Little Mix broke up with Simon Cowell and Syco, their previous record label since their inception. The (stolen) Jess Glynne & Ed Sheeran penned song has the girls singing about could a man love them based on their past and bad habits. However that very message questions the authenticity of Little Mix’s empowerment message, and with that it hearkens back to the question asked initially- is this Little Mix? A chill reggae-inspired guitar riff strums throughout the entire song with a catchy repetitive chorus melody. Minaj’s verse is good. Just that, good. It’s nothing incredible based on her past pop feature verses, even in the last few years she managed to serve something extremely more catchy and character driven on Katy Perry’s Swish Swish.
Whilst on the topic of faux-reggae/reggaeton there are another two songs on the album that also delve into this sound; the album’s second and final single, Think About Us, a mid-tempo reggaeton-lite infused with tropical pop verses and a booming power ballad-esque chorus, the girls sing about a past love and how they are not quite over them at this point. The other reggae fusion on the album being American Boy, a song that screams filler but still provides another relaxing reggae guitar riff whilst the girls sing about a boy who they don’t quite trust yet, they’re worried he’ll leave for another girl. Little Mix are no strangers to showing off insecurities, but the song fails to dive into the nitty gritty of their insecurities, both songs also ask the question- is this Little Mix?
The album isn’t full of complete filler and out of place tracks, however. Joan of Arc is a solid pop song with an underlying sound of trap-pop, not enough to make them Ariana Grande wannabes but enough for it to give the song a bit of an edge that Little Mix sometimes lack. Joan of Arc boasts independence and has the girls rap-singing their assertion of only wanting to love a man simply because they can. They don’t need a man to do anything for them but offer them love, there’s no ulterior motive here. It’s slightly trashy (In the best way possible), not aimed to be a massively empowering song, but it does the job. The MNEK produced Wasabi has the girls snapping back at critics who have spent endless days criticising their outfits, stage performances, music and personal lives. The girls let the haters know that they well.. know nothing. 90s electro-beats, minimal production and an infectious melody that segues into a heavy middle 8 with blaring drums with Jesy tauntingly begging the haters to say what they have to say to their faces all comes together to create the pseudo tik tok viral hit- Wasabi.
The album’s theme and sound seems to ricochet from one sound to another. Love a Girl Right has Little Mix turning Sisqo’s Thong Song into an empowerment anthem, warning any potential partners that they will always have their girlfriend’s backs and to watch out over the chorus melody of Thong Song, although in theory the concept should work but it just… doesn’t. The song echoes more 90s r&b with yet another guitar driven sound than it does contemporary pop, the execution isn’t completely horrible but it could easily be more than what it was.
Monster in Me is an electro-ballad and seems to be one of the only songs on the album where the girls truly flex their pipes, the last minute or so of the song being a massive riff moment with each member being in the spotlight and showing they are more than capable. However lyrically you cannot help but think it’s a bit cheesy, and not good British pop cheesy, just.. cheesy and clichéd. The girls sing of a toxic relationship wanting it so badly to be a normal relationship. It takes a while to get going, but it shines at the end. Notice is a calm r&b song where the girls sing of a man who is appearing uninterested in them, sexually. (I don’t think you notice / I don’t you care / so what’s the point in wearing nothing if you never Notice?) The song is dripping in sexuality, with the MVP of the song going to Jesy’s delivery of her verse and the vocal performances of the girls towards the end. (Perrie belting a Bb5 in the harmony!) The song isn’t filler, but it definitely could have been something more to make it a stand out track on the album, it just comes across as forgettable.
Again, the album still has more strong tracks than it does weak. Strip sees the girls collaborate with Sharaya J, the Missy Elliott approved rapper was a runner-up on the American reality show, The Four. The rapper fought breast cancer prior to her appearance on the show which is why Little Mix reached out to her, Strip has the girls almost rapping over another understated beat with a high heel’d stomp over a wooden floor to add an extra layer of sass. (yes, really) However the message of the song is incredibly uplifting and is quintessential Little Mix, they sing of what they used to be insecure about and how their stretch marks and what critics deemed “ugly” are actually beautiful. Which they are. Lyrically, it isn’t the best, but the fresh production coupled with the delivery of each girl is enough to make it a stand out on the album.
The third and final collaboration on the album is with Kamille, a personal friend of the group who has written many of their biggest hits. The Timbaland produced r&b ballad More Than Words has the girls singing how they couldn’t function without the other and that they have saved each other. The jittery broken delivery of the verses proves a real talent as the song is actually sung like that and isn’t edited or modified in any way. A stunning electric guitar helps build the atmosphere of the bridge as the girls do riffs and runs in harmony to build up to the climax with the stripped back chorus.
Motivate is one of the more sexually charged songs on the album, a latin infused pop song that is high energy from the moment Leigh-Anne opens the song, the song’s energy can be put down to the fact Jade admitted that they were all drunk as they wrote it, and it may be something they should do in the future if we can get more songs with personality and energy like this. Told You So is a beautifully written acoustic song that has the girls advocating support amongst peers when going through a hard time. Lyrically the girls sing about how they knew a man was trash and despite a break up, are not going to be condescending. The delivery of the song is more conversational, akin to Destiny’s Child “Girl” but doesn’t have the same lasting impact as it still feels a bit out of place, despite being one of the solid tracks.
The Cure closes the album, the song is laced with lyrics about finding the Cure to your own demons, pushing oneself through a hardship to find a place of serenity and happiness. Their trademark harmonies and delivery are present throughout the entire song and it doesn’t fail to make an impression. In a live setting the girls dress in sheer white outfits that make them look like actual Angels which is more than fitting. It’s a perfect closing to a whirlwind of an album.
LM5 by all means isn’t a bad album, sonically it fits together well, but the album just isn’t a classic Little Mix album. It feels like a lot of the songs were label choices, despite the girls being executive producers. Personality shines in songs like Wasabi and Strip but filler songs such as American Boy, Love a Girl Right and to an extent, Notice, bring down the album’s appeal and they seem like desperate attempts to expand a range that doesn’t really need expanding. The album comes across as quite understated, even vocally, when Little Mix are known for shoving their massive personalities and voices in your face at any given moment, an attempt to maybe tone down their image went a bit too far and instead we have a 14 track album that doesn’t quite get to live up to its predecessor.
Overall it’s solid, it’s enough for them to bow out from Syco gracefully and start fresh with RCA.
Stand Out Tracks: Strip, Wasabi, More Than Words, Motivate