As the only group to walk away from The X Factor as winners, Little Mix are used to breaking down barriers and playing by their own rules. Since being bundled together after entering the contest as solo singers, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Jesy Nelson have stormed the charts worldwide and beaten records set by the Spice Girls. Their second studio album ‘Salute’ shows the ‘DNA’ starlets have no plans to take their foot off the pedal.
The album’s opening track is nothing short of a call to arms, complete with a siren and brief trap experimentation, ‘Salute’ is one of the strongest openers of 2013 and draws the first of many comparisons to Beyonce and Destiny’s Child. With it’s ‘Run The World (Girls)’-esque chant and strong beat, ‘Salute’ sets the empowering tone of the album immediately - there aren't going to be any time-wasting tracks here.
'Salute' is out today (Packshot)
As the album’s lead single, ‘Move’ has already had numerous outings since being debuted on the Australian X Factor last month. Its demonstration of a fresh, R&B influenced approach to pop music sums up the whole record’s mood and make it the perfect first cut from ‘Salute’. Through collaboration with up-and-coming producer Duvall, Little Mix have created a forward-thinking pop track, with the slick production allowing for the unique incorporation of percussion and a cowbell alongside beat-boxing samples.
Despite the eldest members of the band being just 22, the girls have all grown up quickly since being plunged into the world of talent competitions and worldwide success, putting them in the unique position of being able to offer the advisory lyrics of this track with genuine sincerity. Speaking simultaneously to their younger selves and teen fans, the ‘DNA’ ladies offer passionate heartfelt words, reminding everyone that they aren’t just four women who can hold together some harmonies but also the co-writers behind so many of Salute’s catchiest choruses.
Nothing Feels Like You
The explosive intro to ‘Nothing Feels Like You’ comes courtesy of 18-year-old producer MNEK who has been plucked from relative obscurity to work his magic in the studio. With its subtly African-inspired beats and stripped-back chorus, this song is straight out of the ‘90s and boasts a feel-good vibe that the band’s older contemporaries - The Saturdays and Girls Aloud - have never managed to pin down.
‘Towers’ is the safest of the album’s twelve tracks, yet earns its place on the record by providing the first softer moment amongst the driving force of primarily R&B inspired tunes.
With a jazzy intro and sharp vocals, ‘Competition’ seems to see the album return to its primary R&B influences - that’s before the bridge kicks in and it becomes apparent that the girls are blending in their astounding vocal skills and sassy attitude to create another pop anthem. Expertly-placed backing vocals and self-assured finger clicking takes the ‘Competition’ to the next level, once again leaving us in no doubt that these four young women mean every word that leaves their lips.
These Four Walls
Just in case we were getting worried that Little Mix are actually super-human pop automatons, they hit us with ‘These Four Walls’. With just a piano and delicately quiet strings behind them, Little Mix deliver fragile vocals with a break-up track to rival Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’. Taking it in turns to chime through the track’s emotional chorus, the girls remind everyone that they shot to fame on a singing competition and are all individually capable of providing lead vocals.
About The Boy
While the strong groove and catchy chorus are both worth noting, the star moment of ‘About The Boy’ is Perrie’s insane high note, which is followed by a jokey, knowing sigh and short giggle.
The acapella opening of ‘Boy’ is undeniably Destiny’s Child inspired. Complete with finger-clicking and chatter of how “that boy ain’t good enough for you”, this track is a mash-up of ‘Bills, Bills, Bills’ and ‘Girl’ - with a teeny bit of ‘Emotion’ thrown in for good measure. ‘Boy’ is nothing short of a three minute masterclass in how to make Kelly, Michelle and Beyonce’s jobs look easy and easily a stand-out track from the album.
While ‘These Four Walls’ is never going to be topped as the album’s best - and most arresting - ballad, ‘Good Enough’ comes a close second. Reworking the elements of earlier slow tracks, the seemingly heart-wrenching ‘Good Enough’ doesn’t actually betray ‘Salute's' empowering message and sees the starlets negotiate their way through a series of impeccable vocal performances.
With guest male vocals set against the girls’ flirtatious lyrics, ‘Mr Loverboy’ is the ultimate soundtrack to a summer romance. Hip-hop undertones make sure the dreamy lyrics remain grounded and are delivered in a sharp, confident manner.
A Different Beat
Opening with a tour-ready military chant, ‘A Different Beat’ closes ‘Salute’ with the same sentiments its title track boasted. Reeking of confidence and chanting “I take a look in the mirror and I like what I see”, Little Mix's positive attitude is a huge hit back at critics and bullies who’ve targeted the band. If Beyonce isn’t available to lead the girl power revolution, then Little Mix have got it covered.
Feisty, fierce and boldly going where no other British girl group has thought to venture to, ‘Salute’ is the album The Saturdays never managed to pull out of the bag. A forward-thinking and inspired record, 'Salute' demonstrates why X Factor winners need to be given creative input and writng credits - nobody knows Little Mix fans better than the band themselves.