The New Classic
X Factor second album syndrome hits harder than most, but Little Mix have the mettle to pull through.
It's that time of year again, when former stars go back to the talent show to prove how much they've grown. Little Mix were popular winners in 2011 but are almost unrecognisable from the perky teens who took the honours. On The X Factor last week they looked like an established girl group of considerable potential.
Our own Destiny's Child maybe. They certainly sound like it on Boy, which must have come across Bills, Bills, Bills at some point in its short life, and the title track has more than a touch of Beyoncé's strident go-girls calls-to-arms or MIA's frenetic manifestos, slotting Little Mix into an enviable lineage of tough female stars.
They follow those rules, coming up with crisp R&B empowerment ballad Little Me and the clattering pop militarism of A Different Beat, leaving us in no doubt as to who's in control. But now and then it's the Mixers who are under the kosh, weeping bitter tears about the nasty boys who've left them high and dry on Good Enough, Towers and These Four Walls. That's where things get flaccid.
Far better when they keep it bright, Little Mix hit their peak with the single Move, where an absent chorus is barely missed in the meleé of cowbell, boisterous bluesy piano and pin-sharp harmonies. A little spark and innovation go a long way on an album that should prolong that post-win adventure.