Little Mix are a rare thing. A girl group that actually succeeds. A group that are equal parts of the group. A group that make meaningful and, more importantly, good music. The quartet’s fifth album, LM5, comes after their most successful era to date. Glory Days truly lived up to its name and brought Little Mix their fourth U.K. number one single and their first U.K. number one album. The album, however, wasn’t completely Little Mix. Glory Days may have been their most successful era thus far, but LM5 may be their most authentic. Because like Little Mix, LM5 is a rare thing. LM5 is experimental. LM5 is full of confidence. LM5 is a near perfect album.
From its outset, Little Mix are clearly in their element on LM5. The album opener, a beautiful acapella harmony moment titled ‘The National Manthem’, only has one negative, which is, at thirty seconds, it is much too beautiful to be that short. From there, the girls move their way through what seems like every genre under the sun, which for some reason works. From a sonic point of view, the album is a cohesive mess. Going from reggae to EDM to acoustic, the album never really makes up its mind where it wants to exist. However, that fact never seems a problem when listening to the album, because the Little Mix girls so wholeheartedly believe in the sound they are producing. It is them that makes the album cohesive – their lyrics, their feelings, their vocals. That’s the beauty of LM5. It is not the product of one cohesive voice, but instead is the convergence of different voices, different sounds and different hearts.
The record is a real step up from the band’s previous efforts. Vocally, the girls seem to have truly found their groove, each having their stand out moments. Edwards remains consistent for the group, providing her strong, full vocals everywhere they’re needed. Nelson and Pinnock truly come into their own on this album, with Nelson’s sultry vocal suiting nearly every track on the album and Pinnock deciding to explore her lower register and providing some fabulous speak-singing and some great adlibs on a number of cuts. As for Thirwall, LM5 allows her to flirt with everything. Sometimes she’s joining Edwards way up in the rafters, sometimes she’s dropping it low with Nelson and Pinnock and sometimes, she’s existing somewhere in between. Thirlwall, while providing fabulous backup for her fellow members, is somehow never the standout and somehow always the standout. Except for ‘Wasabi’. One of the more experimental tracks on the album, ‘Wasabi’ switches between a sparse trap track to an R&B-pop fusion track stuck together with a guitar-tinged middle-eight. Here, Thirlwall’s voice is firmly in the spotlight. She settles into a sassy uninterested rap that even the most determined Little Mix detractor would be scathed by.
The album’s sound lives up to what the girl’s promised. It is much more mature, with some songs breaking new ground for the group, while some offering a more updated version of previous sounds. Tracks like the aforementioned ‘Wasabi’ as well as feminist anthems ‘Joan Of Arc’ and ‘Strip (ft. Sharaya J)’ offer a more experimental trap sound for the group, while lead single ‘Woman Like Me (ft. Nicki Minaj)’ sees the quartet take a stab at reggae-pop-R&B hybrid. Of the collaborations, ‘More Than Words (ft. Kamille)’ comes out on top. The electronic power ballad harkens back to Get Weird deep cuts like ‘Lightining’ but fits thematically into the album. The album’s themes largely surround around feminism, self-love and friendship. There are a number of tracks about love and boys, but those tracks don’t feel as authentic. Not that they’re bad. In fact tracks like ‘Monster In Me’ (which is a mature version of a track from their debut DNA), ‘American Boy’ and ‘Motivate’ are some of the groups finest love-orientated tracks to date. However, it is tracks like the acoustic ‘Told You So’, which the girl’s say “defines Little Mix”, and the self-love closer ‘The Cure’ where the girls really sound like they’re singing their own words. The album has little filler. Really it is only ‘ Love A Girl Right’ that lets the set down, but considering the track samples Sisqó’s ‘Thong Song’, it’s a miracle the song isn’t worse than it is.
LM5 isn’t a perfect album. In fact, it wouldn’t be near-perfect if it wasn’t for the girls who hold every track together. The girls of Little Mix are rare. Four people destined to find each other. They fill the role that the other can’t. Together, they are a well-oiled machine. But even well-oiled machines aren’t perfect, and its that fact that makes LM5 special. It isn’t trying to be a perfect album. It’s trying to be authentic. This record is Little Mix accepting that they can’t be perfect, and deciding they’d rather just be themselves. And that is as close as perfect you can get.
LM5, the latest from Little Mix, is available everywhere now. Stream the album on Spotify below: