Perrie, Jesy, Leigh-Anne & Jade: the four ladies of Little Mix. Today marks the release of their debut album, DNA. As the winners of last years X-Factor, the pressure has been on the ladies to deliver before their reign as X-Factor champions is over, and so far they have not disappointed, with their second single, Wings, charting at #1, and their latest effort, DNA charting at #3 just this week. In support of the album the Little Mixers have performed on both the UK and Australian versions of the X Factor, and also did a special performance of album track, Change Your Life, for Children In Need. As the first and only group winners of the X Factor UK, how does the album do as a whole?
The album begins with the two lead singles, Wings & DNA, both very catchy tracks which have served their purpose and beyond in cementing Little Mix as the leading UK girl group in the absence of Girls Aloud, The Sugababes and The Saturdays. The next track, Change Your Life, for me is the first speed bump that the Little Mixers hit. Whilst doing a good job of staying true to the Little Mix brand, (of being relatable to young girls), it sounds like one of those really generic pop songs with a decent chorus. Also, (something which Im possibly going to refer to quite often during this blog), Leigh-Annes rap-singing at the start does everything in its power to make me skip on to the next song
which is a lot of the same. Always Be Together is one of those Carly Rae Jepsen/Taylor Swift sweet love songs that just dont tend to sit very well with me. With that being said, those are the type of songs I feel work for someone like Jade, whose softer vocals are best suit taking the lead on this one. Despite not being a massive fan of the song, Always Be Together is a song I could imagine the girls would release as a cool mid-tempo third single from the album.
Track #5, Stereo Soldier (Please note: its taken me quite a while to articulate exactly how I feel about this song in particular) I didnt really like and I dont ever see myself liking. The song is entitled Stereo Soldier so I felt that the girls went completely for the obvious when the song begun with a marching band led drum riff reminiscent of Gwen Stefanis Hollaback Girl. Only difference between the two songs is Hollaback Girl has, (or had before the number of clone type songs that followed) a unique swag to it. This drum riff coupled with an incessant chanting of Left, Right, Left just made this song a huge no for me. I feel the best way for me to describe Stereo Soldier is as Alesha Dixons Drummer Boys less attractive cousin. (One good point though, was Jesys first half of the bridge).
Anyway, moving swiftly onto pastures green. The next track, Pretend Its OK sees the girls finally find their biting point and drive safely over the speed bump they found themselves hinged on. Ive always felt Little Mix sound best over a simple, meaningful pop track and Pretend Its OK is just that. This song has a very cool, Brit-pop vibe to it which allows for all of the girls to shine both individually and collectively. I was also pleased that Jesy was also given the bridge to sing on this song. Six tracks into the album and what Ive learnt so far from Little Mix is that as soon as there is a climactic moment in a song, its Perries duty to deliver, and whilst she is the most talented vocalist (maybe Jade), that formula does grow old really fast.
Turn Your Face is an emotional piano led ballad which allows the girls to soar to heights as yet reached on DNA. From Jesy opening the track to Jades sweet head voice to Perries power vocals and even Leigh-Anne getting in on the act, Turn Your Face is the girls best vocal by a sweet country mile. In a slight contradiction from the previous song, this song needed Perrie to drive home the climaxes, and she did so. Also, a honourary award to Miss Leigh-Anne Pinnock who showed that she is capable of being on par with the other girls vocals and does not need to be limited to unimpressive rap singing.
Out of all the X Factor alumni I would closely relate Little Mixs sound to that of Cher Lloyd, which can be clearly heard in the next song We Are Who We Are. A punchy song which would have been perfect for a summer release sees the girls revisit the topic of female empowerment as only they know how. Two tracks on from this track (well revisit what weve skipped later) is my personal favourite track, Red Planet (feat. T-Boz). As Ive written a post on this song already I wont dwell too much on the songs greatness, just to say that this version of the song is mixed more evenly and allows you to clearly hear T-Bozs distinctive vocals in the chorus more.
Track #11 Going Nowhere is one of those songs you have to properly listen to and in order to learn to like it. I was initially turned off by the Spanish Guitar type sound, but the track boasts some hugely impressive harmonies over the chorus, (which JLS have only learnt to attempt after four albums). As a songwriter, those harmonies will also used as my excuse to overlook the first to lines in this song, Sick of you playing on that XBox thing, youre never gonna to get me with a diamond ring Innovative.
The final track of the album, Madhouse is another big hit for me. The song is extremely catchy, with a dirty bassline unheard throughout DNA. With an anthemic chorus and chants, this song is a definite standout, almost something I would have expect the girls to have achieved by album 2 or 3. I would best describe this song as sounding altogether more womanly than most of the other songs on the album. Once again, the girls have really hit the mark with fusing their harmonies and pop music together effortlessly, creating a high energy ending to their debut album.
The track previously skipped was #9 How Ya Doin? which is the Little Mix girls
best attempt at bringing old skool back. Its the only track Ive failed to get through at least once. Just, no.
For those of you fans out there who decided to buy the deluxe version, there are an additional four tracks and four videos for you to enjoy. Out of the four bonus tracks three are new, with an unplugged version of DNA being the fourth. My standout bonus track is Case Closed which another really cool track that I feel should have been included on the actual album track listing. The highlight of this song being Jesys pre-chorus, Case Closed (unlike How Ya Doin?) manages to fuse an old-skool R&B sound and make it current.
Little Mix DNA: 7/10 – the album on the whole is a really solid showing for the ladies. Ive given it a 7 overall because aside from the chosen singles, there are a handful of songs I really like, most that are cool but a few that I will no doubt be deleting from my iPhone. Overall the girls sound really good, especially together. Their harmonies are at points unquestionable, which is impressive for a group who only celebrated their first birthday a few months back. One thing I was unimpressed by was what I call the Little Mix Formula, which consists of Jesy/Leigh-Anne starting a song, Jade helping it progress, an occasional appearance from the groups resident
rapper Leigh-Anne and Perrie generally tackling the difficult parts of a song and then finishing it. I found this disappointing because I feel that the ladies are each strong enough to take on different roles and not become predictable. Maybe Im being a little hard on them, but still.
Ones To Listen To: Turn Your Face, Red Planet, DNA, Case Closed (bonus track), Pretend Its OK & Madhouse.
Ones To Turn Off: Change Your Life, Stereo Soldier, How Ya Doin? & Love Drunk (Bonus Track).
Potential Singles: Always Be Together, Pretend Its OK & Madhouse.
What To Expect: Another appearance on the X Factor during the finale & an interesting album chart battle with the Unapologetic force that is Rihanna this week.