Album Review: Little Mix’s ‘LM5’

Little Mix is one step closer to global domination with the unveiling of LM5. A lot has changed since Jesy, Leigh-Anne, Jade and Perrie dropped Glory Days in 2016. Their fourth effort spawned five Top 20 hits and went triple platinum in the UK. However, it struggled to find a niche in US markets. Things are different now. For starters, the girls recently parted ways with Syco (their UK label). It seems they are more in charge than ever before, a fact that is evident on their aptly-titled fifth album.

Girl Power emerges as a unifying theme on the LP as evidenced by the wealth of content that arrived before the November 16 release date. It all started with lead single, “Woman Like Me.” A collaboration with rap queen Nicki Minaj, the breezy anthem is poised to become the group’s fifth chart-topper in the UK. Over guitar riffs and sharp beats, they fight back against the stereotype of the perfect woman by embracing their flaws. Moving into the chorus, they challenge a potential romantic partner to do the same. “Could you fall for a woman like me?”

While not as immediate as “Wings” or “Black Magic,” it is a definite grower. In comparison, “Joan Of Arc” is all-out fun from start to finish. The feminist cut is an exuberant banger reminiscent of Glory Days’ “Down & Dirty” or “Power.” Boasting danceable beats and a sing-along chorus, it is a necessity on any party playlist. The remaining buzz tracks put different spins on the theme. “Told You So” is a breakup ballad that celebrates the healing power of friendship. “We said it, you wouldn’t listen. But finally you found out, that he’s never gonna love you like we do,” they coo. “But please, he’s never gonna find no one like you.”

Promising support without judgement, the girls toss in a few clever digs at the ex but keep things lighthearted. It is a track that would feel contrived in anyone else’s hands. But Little Mix turn it into a sweet tribute to their tight-knit group. With its message of self-love, “The Cure” works as a sequel of sorts. The synth-laden mid-tempo is pop perfection with an uplifting message. And an acoustic version on the deluxe edition is even more evocative and well-worth the listen.

Speaking of the deluxe edition, Little Mix closes it out with their Cheat Codes collaboration, “Only You.” The club-ready anthem feels like a bit of an afterthought, but it is still deserving of love. Impressively, the majority of the material on the album is just as good as what we have already heard. With a meaty 18 tracks on the deluxe edition, it features a wealth of content. Although the songs share a general theme, they explore a variety of pop’s sub-genres.

The a cappella “The National Manthem” sets the scene. “She is a bad bitch made up of magic. Pray to the goddess,” the girls coo in perfect harmony. Serving vocals for days, they squeeze a lot into the 30-second run-time. The only possible improvement would be to expand the moment into a full-length song. As it is, it makes for a nice but brief transition. “Strip,” the album’s second single, features a similarly sparse production on the opening lines. However, it rapidly evolves with the addition of a throbbing bass.

As the title suggests, it is a sexy ode to looking and feeling good naked. “Finally love me naked, sexiest when I’m confident,” they emphatically declare before encouraging others to love their tiny boobs, big asses, stretch marks and other perceived flaws. Featured rapper Sharaya J rolls through for a self-assured verse of her own. She also appears in the accompanying video, which premiered Friday. Straightforward and empowering, it should be another smash.

If you’re in the mood for a legitimate bedroom banger, look no further than “Motivate.” Complete with some breathy panting in the background, this is an ode to a partner who never leaves you wanting more in the sack. “Drunk or sober, he never lets me down when he go lower. Then baby always hold me when it’s over,” the ladies brag. It is unadulterated smut, and I cannot get enough. Unfortunately, it isn’t all rainbows and good lays on the album.

“Notice” boasts an equally sensual production. However, here the ladies are a little more frustrated with an inattentive lover. “What’s the point of wearing nothing if you never notice,” Perrie asks. Later she delivers an ultimatum of sorts. “Yeah, I’ma take off if you make me wait.” Meanwhile, “Monster In Me” is about the attraction of a toxic relationship. “Touch me. Why don’t we kill each other slowly,” the girls ask. “The monster in me loves the monster in you.” The electro-ballad is beautifully constructed, and it marks a vocal high point.

Love and passion play a key role in several other tracks including the stunning “Think About Us” and “More Than Words.” The former heads to the club, where the girls dance around the question of how serious a relationship is. “Now we’re dancing in the club. And it’s fire when we touch. Do you think about us,” they ask. Built around an infectious break, it is a lush floor filler. The latter features a production credit from Timbaland and vocals from frequent collaborator Kamille. A stuttering tribute to unconditional love, it carries some of the LP’s most heartfelt writing.

Here Little Mix imbue the track with more of a hip-hop edge – a surprising but effective decision. I’d definitely support seeing the track released as a single at some point this era. In comparison, “American Boy” is a little more forgettable. Sadly, it is not an Estelle cover (could you even imagine?). Instead, it features a guitar line similar to “Woman Like Me” and grating lyrics. It’s not unforgivable, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression. The same could be said for “Forget You Not.” The reverse breakup anthem feels inferior to “Only You” and sounds stale on the jam-packed tracklist.

LM5 is filled with creative risks. One of the most remarkable is “Love A Girl Right.” Interpolating elements of Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and SisQó’s “Thong Song,” on paper it is a serious mind-fuck. However, the final result works surprisingly well and carries a word of warning for men out there – treat your girl right. Or else. The same could be said for the fan-favored “Wasabi.” The unhinged bop hits back at haters over a frenetic, constantly evolving production. The final result is cheeky but places the group in charge of their own destiny.

That leaves us with “Woman’s World” – potentially the most important song in terms of the overarching theme. Written in response to the #MeToo movement, the soaring cut highlights the plight of women across the world. “If you never been told how you gotta be. What you gotta wear, how you gotta speak. If you never shouted to be heard, you ain’t lived in a woman’s world,” they sing. “Try living in a woman’s world.” It’s both a challenge and a testament, and it resonates with power.

Low on filler and high on quality pop that bridges a variety of sounds, LM5 is easily one of Little Mix’s best releases to date. It is also perhaps their most ambitious. At its base, the project is a concept album. No matter how eclectic the sounds may be, feminism and girl power tie it all together and present a better sense of what the girls are about. Lush with potential hits, hopefully this will be the collection to bring them stateside success. Now more than ever before, they have a message that needs to be heard.

Score: 4/5

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