Since 2011 Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jade Thirlwall have established themselves as one of British pop’s brightest pop acts.
Signature hits including ‘Move’, ‘Wings’ and ‘DNA’ - and now insanely effervescent comeback single ‘Black Magic’ - have helped the Number One-selling girlbandscore over half a billion YouTube and Vevo views worldwide, alongside massive tours of the UK, Australia, Japan and the US – where their debut album smashed a record the Spice Girls held for almost two decades.
So the world’s biggest girlgroup were excited, last autumn, when they gathered at Perrie’s house to listen to their third album. They’d had a similar listening session with their first album in 2012. In 2013, they’d done it again for ‘Salute’, the album that sent their career stratospheric. And now, after months in the studio, Little Mix were ready to listen to their third album from beginning to end for the first time. But while it was playing, the mood in the room changed. After the music finished, Jesy burst into tears. She and the rest of that band all knew in that moment that the album just wasn’t good enough.
Maybe this sort of thing happens a lot and nobody admits it. Maybe it’s the sort of thing that should happen a lot more. Either way, the difficult choice the girls made that day is one that will prove to be the best decision they ever made. “We started again,” Perrie remembers today. “We started from scratch.”
In the months that followed, there were new co-writing sessions, a new cast of producers, and vocal sessions that pushed the girls to their limits. The band came back stronger than ever before. During the recording process they stayed longer and sang harder. Nothing but the best was good enough and now, in 2015, after a gestation period of more than a year, the third Little Mix album, titled 'Get Weird', is ready. As Jesy explains, “if you release an album that’snot good enough, you can never take it back. But that setback gave us extra drive. We always wanted Little Mix to do well - now we want it more than ever.”
It’s easily been worth the wait. Lead single ‘Black Magic’, a spellbinding and irresistible pop explosion with a soaring chorus and addictive call-and-response middle eight, with state-of-the-art pop production from Norwegian hotshots Electric, is a brilliant statement of intent. Make no mistake: 'Get Weird' does not mess about.
From throwback vibes to ultra-modern production it feels like these songs take in the past, the present and the future of girlband pop - often all in the same song. Vocally, they sound stronger than ever; compare this album with the band’s first, and it’s light years ahead. “We went with the flow a bit more to start with,” Perrie remembers. “But now we want to put our own spin on everything. We won’t just settle with the first idea. We want to push everything to its limits. I suppose we were quite intimidated to start with. We run the show now.”
The band have always contributed to the songwriting process, but this time round they’ve upped their game, working with a handpicked selection of pop’s great and good, from Ed Drewett (Olly Murs, One Direction) and Maegan Cottone (Britney Spears, Demi Lovato) to collaborators who are artists in their own right, like Jess Glynne and Jessie J. One of the stars of the show turned out to be Camille Purcell, a songwriter who’d previously contributed three songs to ‘Salute’, and whose work appears on the new album in songs like ‘Black Magic’, ‘Weird People’, ’Grown’, and the future smash ‘Love Me Like You’. “Camille knows us so well,” Jade explains. “So after we’d had our break, we said to her, ‘this is what we want. Can you help us do it?’ And she totally did.”
Jade adds that it’s the song ‘I Won’t’ that best represents a key moment of self-discovery for the band. “There was that period when we were all down, thinking we weren’t ever going to finish the album,” she says. “And there were doubts creeping in - but then we had a writing session with Jess Glynne and while we were there we realised: we’ve got each other. That’s all we need. If we’ve got each other, we’ll be fine.”
Elsewhere on the album ‘Clued Up’ is the result of a fruitful session with Jessie J - whom the girls first met when she helped Tulisa during X Factor’s Judges’ Houses round. “She was there right at the start with us,” Leigh-Anne says, “and we’ve been talking about working together from day one.” When the long-awaited session rolled around, Jessie had a suggestion. “We each had to think of something that we felt in ourselves: an insecurity,” Leigh-Anne continues. The result is something unusually frank, but typically great. “It’s funny isn’t it,” Jesy smiles. “You never really hear people talking about their insecurities in songs. You never really know what artists feel about themselves. We thought, screw it, let’s do exactly that. We go through insecurities like every other human being, so let’s write about it.”
Other key songs on the album include ‘Secret Love Song’ (Perrie says that it’s “about being with someone and you want to scream it from the rooftops but you have to hold it in - I can relate to it very, very well…”) and ‘Weird People’, which is Jesy’s personal favourite. “Everyone in the world has a bit of weirdness in them,” she shrugs, “whether they like it or not. ‘Weird People’ is about saying who gives a fuck what people think. This is who we are, and if you don’t like it then you can sod off.” The importance of this sentiment naturally meant there was no better title for the album than ‘Get Weird.’ The girls explain "we're all about embracing our inner weirdness, we feel like everyone should celebrate being unique and not hold back." What’s more "it's a fun colourful pop album so there are plenty of opportunities to turn it up and get weird."
The girls are keen to point out that if the last twelve months have sometimes been rather trying; one constant source of support has been the band’s fans. “They’re like friends now,” Jade explains. Adds Leigh-Anne: “They’re so determined and so passionate. It feels like they want it even more than we do.”
And much as fans may be surprised by the exciting new twists on the album, so Little Mix too hope the coming months will also have some surprises in store. Last time round, for instance, they were shocked by the success of their arena tour. “Selling out the O2 was a significant moment for all of us,” Leigh-Anne says. “To have our fans singing songs, that we’d helped write, back to us, was a dreams-come-true moment. It feels like every year we’ve got aims and targets that we want to hit, but also we want to be surprised by what might be around the corner.”
Having gone the extra mile getting their album in shape, Little Mix are prepared to keep pushing forward until the world’s fallen under their spell. “It’s alright to keep striving to be better,” Perrie reasons. “You don’t get anything in life given to you on a plate, you have to work for it, and we want to work. We had a meeting with our label recently and they were like, girls, are you still hungry for this? I said, hungry? We’re bloody starving!”
Combine that hunger with one of the finest, most hit-packed British girlband albums in a decade, and you’ve got a recipe for pop perfection. “We want to go to the next level and this is going to be the year we work our arses off,” Perrie states. “We’re going to stick a rocket up Little Mix with this album. Get ready to be amazed.”
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