By Teresa Ugarte
British girl group Little Mix dropped their highly anticipated album on Friday, Nov. 16, ending their two-year musical drought. The album, titled LM5, is “the album we’ve always wanted to make,” according to the band’s twitter. The band split from their record label just days before the album’s release, sparking rumors that creative differences and controversial tracks and collaborations caused the split, despite the official story that it had to do with Little Mix’s management company. With pressure running high for Little Mix, the album had to be a hit. But despite its popularity among hardcore fans, it falls just a little bit short for the rest of us.
It’s really two albums in one: one chock full of feminist anthems, the other a collection of love ballads. The best songs are the ones that utilize the band’s impressive vocal range and harmonization, and the worst are the ones that harp on tired messaging. “Joan of Arc” breaks from the band’s usual style in a brave attempt at spoken-word that doesn’t quite work. “Wasabi” falls in a similar trap, as does “Strip.” All have a feminist message that doesn’t have enough depth to feel empowering, and the music isn’t able to make up the difference to make the song enjoyable.
“Strip,” for example, talks about “stripping” off makeup and loving what’s underneath, but in the music video they still obviously have on fake lashes, mascara, eyeshadow, lip gloss and light foundation. It might seem nitpicky, since the video generally succeeds in displaying body positivity as a whole, but it’s hard to get on board when the band won’t even follow the titular advice.
The best song is by far “Told You So.” It’s the epitome of the band’s charm: their effortless connection with one another. It harkens back to their earlier albums’ musical style and themes with its sweet, soft ode to female friendships. If the rest of the songs were “Told You So”s, it would be a five star album. “The Cure” is similarly good, reminiscent of the group’s old style without being overly preachy.
Overall, the album lacks cohesion. There’s no main thread that ties the whole thing together; rather, it feels like 14 singles that were released in a bulk package. It kind of makes sense, given the album’s time frame. Presumably, the album was recorded over the band’s two years of musical silence, meaning these songs were probably written and recorded at different times, without a underlying theme in mind. Half the songs are about a boy, half are about how they don’t need a man. Which is fine; these messages can coexist, but it’s a little jarring to swing from one extreme to the other without any transitional shades.
Perspective is important. I like Little Mix, but I don’t know all their songs by heart. Fans who put a lot of stock into what the band says may actually find these songs empowering and enjoyable, and just a glance at the LM5 hashtag on Twitter or the YouTube comments on the “Strip” video will tell you they do. Then again, if it’s only diehard fans who are loving these songs, you have to wonder how good they actually are.
It’s not a bad album. It’s worth a listen if only for the few hidden gems like “Told You So,” but at the end of the day, it’s just alright.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Little Mix’s Facebook page.
Teresa Ugarte is a freshman journalism and English major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.