"Salute," Little Mix #MusicMonday

Monday, December 16, 2013

Little Mix Salute
source: Little Mix's Facebook page
Back in July, I wrote about Little Mix's debut album and how much I adored it. "DNA," the British girl group's debut album, was released in May in the United States, and not six months later, its follow-up "Salute" is here. Like One Direction, the girls' "X Factor UK" male counterparts who have received international superstardom, these girls (Jade Thirlwall, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards) have been groomed in a similar fashion and have pushed out back-to-back albums at a neck-breaking speed.

I've given the boy versus girl thing a lot of thought since I was a teenager -- the question being: if I were a teen pop idol, would I rather be a girl or a boy? Being a male pop star probably has more "perks" than being a female one, and boys probably have it a bit easier when it comes to their safety (like one of the New Kids on the Block once said -- and this isn't verbatim -- nobody dies from too many kisses ... or was it too much love?). I tend to think that male pop idols probably make more money in the same amount of time, but their shelf lives can be much, much shorter than that of their female counterparts, and female teen idols are much more adept at turning their teeny stardom into a full-fledged, "legitimate" musical career.

That said, Little Mix has already done a better job of growing their music than One Direction had at this point in their career. Whereas "DNA" was a pop album with a sprinkle of R&B, "Salute" is an R&B-hip-hop swirl with a pop cherry on top. "Salute" is enough of a departure from the girl group's "original" sound to put some people off, but probably not for those who they care most about -- their teen fans, who are probably at that impressionable age when embracing and absorbing the things your peers and idols are into is just part of growing up. What I find incredibly interesting about Little Mix is though each group member individually has a great voice -- great enough to have gotten them to Judges' Houses on "The X Factor UK," many of their upbeat songs feature them as a chorus, rather than four individual voices with solos. It follows, then, that they harmonize beautifully.

As with their debut album, Little Mix co-wrote more than half of "Salute." But this time around, Little Mix employed the '80s and '90s hitmaking duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, along with many of the same producers behind "DNA." Which might account for some of the '90s sound on the album, including the standout track "Mr. Loverboy." The album's lead single "Move" is reminiscent of this summer's hit "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke, but less catchy.

In fact, being less catchy is an overarching theme of Little Mix's sophomore album. In lieu of catchiness, you get a slightly more intellectual roster of songs, including the raw and bittersweet "Towers," which is the antithesis of most of "DNA"'s uplifting, cheery singles. "Nothing Feels Like You," however, seems like an urban rehashing of one of Little Mix's biggest songs, "Wings." Hey, why fix it if it ain't broke? (This philosophy would be the downfall of many a pop idol.)

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