Little Mix have never lacked confidence, that’s for sure, but for their fifth studio album they tap into a whole new found empowerment that unlocks a sassy and playful side to the girls. ‘LM5’ is a bold and personal journey of self empowerment that also explores the society uprising in equal rights. But in this tactical shift they have compromised their sound with a tacky and generic electronic pop production that experiments with RNB and hip hop elements. They’ve tried to grow their upbeat and carefree sound by adding more volume and BPM’s but instead they are just making their old listeners wanting to turn them off. This record is not an easy listen at all. The singles ‘Woman Like Me’ and ‘Joan Of Arc’ are perfect examples of just how these songs haven’t translated to the charts or radio with people struggling to jump on board with this very in your face approach. There are other ways for them to project their message and image of hope and empowerment but instead they’ve just got lost within trying to make the record “arena ready”. There are moments in ‘Think About Us’, ‘American Boy’, ‘Motivate’ and T’he Cure’ which really should’ve jumped out as some of the strongest moments on the record but instead they just fell into predictable territory with the songs lacking an experimental layer. It’s as if they’ve googled the handbook on the sound they want to go towards and aren’t straying from any of the recommendations. But in saying that there are a couple of moments where they don’t hold back and these tracks are a little ridiculous and unexpected but they quickly become some of your favourite tracks in the collection.
’Strip’ is the first of the standouts with its hard hip-hop flavour that interpolates with an electronic pop beat that takes over the chorus. It reminds of early Pussycat Dolls with it’s sexual tension and pure empowerment that embodies throughout the whole delivery. This then perfectly transitions into ‘Wasabi’ which holds onto a similar vibe and adds in a rock moment that layers the electronic beat. Playing off that band experimentation, ‘Love A Girl Right’ and ‘Told You So’ have a more wholesome approach with their guitar strumming and smoother harmonies. Stripping it all the way back for ‘Monster In Me’ they discover a raw vulnerability that their fans have marked as one of the stand out and most honest moments of their whole career. A big but deserving call because it is a really simple and nostalgic moment.
I just wish this album had a little bit more honesty and didn’t hear them stepping away so drastically from who they were as artists. Because I truly don’t believe they changed THAT much that it warrants a complete re-haul. All they needed to do was show a little more personality but instead they’ve shown so much personality but no raw intensity and lost their original warmth that made them so likeable. There are so many important themes explored on this record with equality and female empowerment taking the lead that it’s a shame that over production takes away its impact.