Some articles about Little Mix over the years have been baiting and hypocritical pearl-clutching to say the least. Even one of the original bastions of Girl Power, Melanie Chisholm, had an ill-advised pop at the quartet concerning their risqué costumes, resulting in a warranted backlash, given the underlying message of empowerment and liberation peddled by The Spice Girls in their heyday. It was particularly embarrassing when you consider the continuous press-hungry scandals that surrounded at least three of them. The irony here is that the women of Little Mix have remained largely scandal-free, and this only lends to their sincerity as pop megastars.
If ever a group was to take up the mantle of Girls Aloud, it was to be Little Mix. Their sass and ear for out and out bangers have proven tremendously successful. Their last album LM5 was to be their last with Syco Music, the minstrels keen to shake off the Simon Cowell shackles and make their own mark on the pop world. Yet this year has seen them launch their own lukewarmly received talent show Little Mix: The Search, and fans have been left wondering what their new sound would be.
Break Up Song kicked off the campaign in March with a very Carly Rae Jepsen feel weaving into a sped up homage to a-ha‘s Take On Me, the ’80s synths and gorgeous harmonies providing the dose of optimism we needed at the beginning of lockdown. A further taste of the album came in Not A Pop Song, released in October, suggesting that they were ready to take the reins from Cowell with a big stadium sound and sassy digs at manufactured pop and its subjects of love and partying, with hints that some surprises were coming. This was a canny ruse from the group, as the album rumbles on with mostly manufactured pop blueprints.
Confetti sees Little Mix coming out of the starting blocks power walking. There’s nothing really new here, although certainly something old, the military rat-tat of noughties R&B features heavily on the kiss-off Sweet Melody and empowering Gloves Up. There are sections of something borrowed; Rendez-Vous is very Pussycat Dolls while Holiday starts off like John Lundvik‘s Eurovision almost-winner Too Late For Love, but weaves into a lick so reminiscent of Dua Lipa‘s Break My Heart mashed up with Rita Ora‘s Anywhere that it’s almost criminal. All this can leave those wanting a fresh take rather blue.
Indeed there are some welcome changes on the album. Gone are the high profile collabs-by-numbers to crack America, although Nothing But My Feelings is a mostly a Nicki Minaj-lite stab at guitar-driven R&B. Yet, A Mess (Happy 4 U) is a move in the right and a different direction with sugary pop weaving into a grandstanding chorus with a fortuitous and eccentric middle-eight.
There is no doubt that these women are accomplished singers, but some of the tracks here labour under over-production and Auto-Tune. It would be spectacular to hear these vocals with less superficial polish, something that a torch song like My Love Won’t Let You Down is crying out for, as does the album’s closer Breathe, a saccharine ballad that treads the narrative of Toni Braxton‘s Breathe Again, the church organs providing a more choral feel.
These talented women are now undeniably veterans of kiss-offs and pop bangers with soaring choruses. Confetti is a dependable album with recipe staples, but to keep future interest piqued, something new is now required in the mix.