10 years ago, four women from all around the UK auditioned for The X Factor UK. After not making it as solo artists, Simon Cowell and co. decided they might have a shot at stardom if they worked together as a girl group. Six albums, countless platinum singles and plenty of broken records later, Little Mix have become one of the most successful girl groups in history. Cowell doesn’t miss much, does he?
As the group have just hit their huge milestone of ten years together, and they’re still going strong. Next month will see the group release their first-ever greatest hits album Between Us, and with a discography as stacked as theirs, making the decision over what songs to include must have been difficult.
So, as Little Mix and their millions of fans worldwide reflect on where they’ve come from and where they’re headed, here are the 10 most essential tracks to listen to from the British sensations that show their evolution, their maturity, their unity and, above all else, their fight for empowerment.
‘Wings’ – DNA (2012)
Look, ‘Wings’ is by no means one of Little Mix’s strongest songs. It was a pop record that was perhaps a little too cheesy for any new 2021 audience, but it’s one of the most important songs in the LMX lexicon. Why? It’s their first. Little Mix’s story is one of empowerment and one of resilience. These were four women who were originally deemed not worthy of even making it beyond bootcamp on X Factor UK. Even when they did, history was hardly in their favour – no girl group had ever won the series in its lengthy history. But here they stood – winners in every sense – with a song that went to #1 in their own country, and cracked the top #3 here in Australia.
Couple that with ‘Wings’ being a song about prospering despite detractors, and it was the start of a story that was almost too good to be true. Almost.
‘Salute’ – Salute (2013)
As Little Mix moved on towards their second album, they needed to change things up to ensure they weren’t just riding the coattails of their TV talent show fame and prove themselves as legitimate forces to be reckoned with. And sounding like a literal battle cry, complete with bellowing calls to attention and commanding war horns, ‘Salute’ dares skeptics to doubt Little Mix’s legitimacy as pop superstars-in-training.
‘Black Magic’ – Get Weird (2015)
If ‘Salute’ was a challenge to sceptics, then ‘Black Magic’ obliterated them completely. ‘Black Magic’ mixed the oh-so-sweetness of Little Mix’s first album with the defiance of their second and certified them as a group to stay. Beyond that, the group was as tight as ever and reached their third album – Get Weird – with their original lineup. Geri Halliwell left the Spice Girls before album #3, Camila Cabello left Fifth Harmony before album #3, Destiny’s Child changed lineups multiple times before album #3 and the Pussycat Dolls didn’t even make it to album #3.
‘Black Magic’, with its unrelenting hook and ’80s-inspired strutting guitar line, would go on to be their internationally successful song up to that point, and it’s not hard to see why.
‘Secret Love Song (feat. Jason Derulo)’ – Get Weird (2015)
A sullen but splendid reminder that Little Mix will absolutely floor you with their vocal prowess, ‘Secret Love Song’ arrived when stadium-ready pop ballads were few and far between on the charts. In an area that to this day is almost solely dominated by Adele, Little Mix temporarily ditched their bubblegum for red wine and, with the help of Jason Derulo, gave an ode to forbidden love that booms with emotion with every chorus.
‘Shout Out To My Ex’ – Glory Days (2016)
Little Mix’s fourth album, Glory Days, produced an absolutely powerhouse run of near-flawless singles, and ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ was the one that set it all in motion. With tongue-in-cheek vengeance drenched in sun, the girls say cheers to their exes for all the ways they hurt them, backed with summery guitar strums and sprinkled with infectious whoops. The song ended up winning the band their first-ever BRIT award – more on that later – and has become one of the most crucial cornerstones of one of modern pop’s most impressive careers.
‘Power (feat. Stormzy)’ – Glory Days (2016)
When there are already four voices on a song, adding anymore might sometimes feel like overkill; too many cooks in the kitchen. But when Little Mix get their collabs right – they’re excellent. Take the rendition of their empowering, feminist anthem ‘Power’ that has Stormzy provide a typically charismatic verse, but over a mega-pop, festival-prepped beat. His verse is packed with praise of strong, assertive women, which *ahem* compliments the vibe of fierceness that explodes throughout the rest of the track. ‘Power’ has the same type of untouchable feminist aura as the Spice Girls, but with an unmistakable millennial sparkle.
‘Wasabi – LM5 (2018)
There aren’t enough diss tracks in pop, I say.
‘Sweet Melody’ – Confetti (2020)
‘Sweet Melody’ might be bittersweet for some fans as it marked the final single Little Mix would deliver with its original lineup, but if you’re going to signal an end of an era – this is how you do it. Thirlwall’s opening verse so effortlessly tiptoes between scorned and sassy and Pinnock’s impassioned, fiery bridge stand out as the most exciting moments of a song that proved, even ten years on, that Little Mix still had it. Longevity in pop is hardly guaranteed, and Little Mix pulled it off with a song that truly captures their evolution. The message is the same, but the vessel has matured and flourished. Those earworm-y ‘do-do-dos’ are just the cherry on top.
‘Confetti (feat. Saweetie)’ – Confetti (2020)
When Jesy Nelson left the group in 2020, there were inevitably questions about what this meant for the group’s future. Not only were they one member down after remaining strong as a quartet for a decade, but they had already outlived the timeline of what many other pop groups achieved.
They could’ve hung it up, sure, but instead they fired back with a revamped version of their sixth album’s title track. A track made for the club at a time when we all sorely missed it, ‘Confetti’ now reads as a celebration of all the group have achieved thus far, and all they’re yet to achieve. Consider this version of the song arrived before they became the first girl group in history to win the BRIT for ‘British Group’ – an astounding feat considering the same country produced Spice Girls, All Saints, Girls Aloud, Sugababes and more. Saweetie’s subdued delivery style matches the song perfectly, as she helps talk some sense into a woman who is being played by a man with a verse leaving no moment unmilked.
‘Touch’ – Glory Days (2016)
Glory Days did produce a steady run of brilliant singles, but all of them frankly pale in comparison to Little Mix’s magnum opus. ‘Touch’, in part produced by the group’s frequent collaborator MNEK, is a pop moment, plain and simple. While fusing together elements of both dance-pop and tropical house, the first half of the chorus is performed over little more than fluctuating bass before exploding into colourful and glittering synths, and it commands attention like no other chorus the band have delivered. It’s a song that broadened their horizons and their fanbase. Charli XCX, one of the most respected songwriters working in pop currently, once attended the BRITs purely to see the group perform the song. The group themselves have even ranked ‘Touch’ above every other song they’ve ever made.
And, even after five years, you still can’t blame them.
The brand-new single from Little Mix, ‘Love (Sweet Love)’ is out now. ‘BETWEEN US’, the Greatest Hits from Little Mix, who are celebrating 10 years as a group this year, is available to pre-order now and out November 12th.