Favorites: These Four Walls, Boy, Good Enough, Mr. Loverboy
Dislikes: About the Boy
Overall: Great vocals, fun & 90’s-2000’s nostalgic, but nostalgic to a fault
Season 8 UK “X-Factor” winners, Little Mix, are in their sophomore era with “Salute” (according to reports, the album will be officially released in the U.S. on February 4, 2014). There’s not much to dislike about this album, especially if you were an adolescent during the late 1990’s-early 2000’s, as the group seems to be channeling the pop/R&B of the Spice Girls (ex. Mr. Loverboy) and Destiny’s Child: between the acapella harmonies, “dump that prick” message and bouncy flow, I instantly heard the DarkChild-produced “Say My Name” in my head when listening to “Boy.” The vocals are the most attractive thing about this quartet that consists of 20-22 year olds, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirlwall and Jessica “Jesy” Nelson. Unlike most groups, each woman can hold their own; it’s a wonder they were put together and didn’t get through as individual contestants (if you don’t watch “X-Factor,” there are 4 categories and sometimes those who aren’t accepted in an individual audition are matched with others to form a group). Maybe it’s because despite being strong separately, they all sound strikingly similar. Edwards’ voice/tone is the most distinctive, simply because it sounds slightly deeper and thicker than the rest. Nonetheless, the 4-part combination is beautiful and stunning, particularly on the tender and heartrending “These Four Walls.” If you can relate to the lyrics, listening to it will have you sitting in the shower, crying.
“Salute’s” writing is sufficient and clear-cut; there’s nothing obnoxiously meaningless, poorly developed or gratuitous and you can easily get the point. Musically, my central criticism is that there’s 1 too many tracks with a militant or tribal sound; it was redundant. Additionally, the production didn’t provide the ladies with a unique stamp; the album, although enjoyable, comes off like a karaoke tribute to past girl groups with really great singers. You could’ve replaced Little Mix with another decent group on these tracks and no one would know the difference. To fully stand out, Little Mix needs something pointed musically or lyrically to supplement their vocal. For example, Destiny’s Child was known for their often speeding, beat-heavy rhythms, sultry mid-tempos, female empowerment and fast singing. TLC blended R&B with hip-hop, had street flavor and were topically taboo. What will Little Mix be known for? Well, since they had writing credit on most of “Salute,” they clearly have the capacity to decide for themselves. This album may not be a timeless masterpiece that jump-starts the Little Mix legacy, but it’s a fun, sassy, energetic pop album that will bring back some pleasant memories.