Little Mix is something of an anomaly. They’re one of the biggest stadium acts in the United Kingdom and Europe, but they have barely made a dense Stateside. With their fifth full-length, LM5, Little Mix ties The Saturdays for most studio albums from a girl group in the modern era. Formed on the X Factor UK in 2011, Little Mix has consistently impressed with their formidable stage show, breathtaking harmonies, and strong albums. LM5 is easily the group’s most mature record yet, and there is a clear line of evolution from their debut record, DNA, to this current album. Themes of woman empowerment and sexual liberation rule the album and the girls sound more confident and self-assured than ever before.
LM5 commences with “The National Manthem,” a short and cheeky intro laden with tight harmonies. Although the track is all of thirty seconds, it features the excellent lyric: “She is a bad bitch / Made up of magic.” Reggaeton-influenced synths and a warbling bass signal the entrance of the album’s lead single, “Woman Like Me.” A collaboration with Nicki Minaj, “Woman” is a sublime pop song. Filled with sultry lyrics and near perfect production, this is one of the best pop songs of the year. Everything from Nicki’s guest verse to the climax of the final project is executed exquisitely. This trend continues through the next five tracks. On “Think About Us,” Little Mix delivers a sort of EDM-ballad that showcases both artistic and vocal growth. Their confidence and sass buoys “Strip,” a collaboration with Sharaya J, and “Joan of Arc.” Their message of empowerment and self-love shines brightly through both tracks, and the heavy bass sound is a risk for them, but it pays off. The one song that is most reminiscent of their earlier work is a “Love a Girl Right”; the song sounds like a cross between J. Lo’s “Love Don’t Cost a Thing” and J.T.’s “Like I Love You.” Simply put, the guitar-centric sound is reminiscent of their Glory Days and Get Weird sound, and the change in pace is welcome.
Unfortunately, for all of its highs, LM5 runs far too long and houses too many fillers. Specifically, “The Cure,” “Motivate,” and “American Boy” are utterly forgettable and the album would have been an even stronger set without them. These tracks are not individually bad, but the earlier half of the record is so strong that they feel weak in comparison. There are some gems on the back half of the album, though. “Wasabi” is two and a half minutes of pure fun, “Woman’s World” is poignant and political without feeling preachy, and, “Told You So” and “More Than Words” are beautiful vocal moments. LM5 could have done with more ballads— and stronger ones at that. Ballads have always been where the girls truly shined, and that facet of their artistry is missed on this album. On LM5, Little Mix is finally making music that sounds mature. Their previous records, although great and endlessly enjoyable, sounded geared towards a younger demographic that could not fully grasp the themes that LM5 presents. LM5 is a great achievement and strong leap forward for the girls; with this album, they have yet another addition to the girl group lexicon.
Key Tracks: “Woman Like Me,” “Think About Us,” “Strip,” “Woman’s World,” “Told You So”
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