Girl groups are beyond an endangered species in the music industry.
It’s been 20 years since the Spice Girls called it quits and 14 since Beyoncé left Destiny’s Child to go solo.
Sure, other groups have tried. Groups like Fifth Harmony and Bad Boy’s Danity Kane had the makings of respectable careers, until ultimately poor management, personal strife between members, and behind-the-scenes machinations caused the future of both bands to crumble. So the fact that U.K. artist Little Mix has survived and prospered for nearly 10 years is nothing short of amazing.
When Little Mix was put together by chance on Britain’s The X Factor in 2011, it was clear that the girls were destined to sing together. Even when judge Simon Cowell predictably suggested that Perrie would better suit the position of lead singer, the girls rejected the thinly veiled attempt at sabotage by Cowell — a tactic that he would later successfully employ on American The X Factor contestants and short-lived girl group Fifth Harmony.
In this era, Little Mix is exactly the type of musical artist we need. Not only do they continue to break records while outliving the shelf-life of a typical girl group, but they’ve found the confidence to express themselves as women even as they face criticisms about their weight, clothes, and relationships. They’ve stayed true to themselves and their vision, despite years of being undercut professionally from all sides. And they’ve made their own success by becoming the biggest girl group in the world, even without “breaking” into the United States.
It would be easy for me to write yet another article explaining, “Why America Needs to Notice Little Mix.” And while this is true, there’s an aspect of this pitch that’s troubling; it implies that Little Mix has not achieved true success without the acknowledgment of the U.S., which is very far from the actual truth. America might be one of the most influential music markets in the world, but, even without it, Little Mix has made millions and headlined three world tours.
Do they really need to be as ubiquitous as Rihanna to achieve “true fame”? Only from a centrist American view. The girls have mentioned before that they would love to have more radio play in the U.S., and achieving a hit here would certainly put them over the top. But lacking that achievement doesn’t downplay all of their other professional accomplishments. They’re already hitting all their marks as a girl group.
Even more important than their many awards and top-charters is the way they’ve become true role models for their fans. Band member Jesy Nelson participated in an award-winning documentary that chronicles the abuse she’s endured from social media trolls. The constant attacks on her appearance and her viability in the group eventually took a mental toll. She made the film to give a raw, candid account of how dangerous and pervasive internet abuse can be. She was frank about her experiences with depression and how the constant harassment gradually wore her down to the point where she thought about taking her life.
Leigh Anne Pinnock, too, has been open and honest with fans about her struggles. She recently took to Instagram to discuss her experiences dealing with racism as the only Black member of the band. Since that video aired, Leigh Anne has adopted the issue of fighting racism, including Black Lives Matter, as a platform that she publicly supports and advocates. She also announced her involvement in a documentary about racism in the UK.
Both were incredibly vulnerable moves by the girls and it demonstrated just how unwavering Little Mix is about the causes they support. The ladies have always identified themselves as a feminist group, and many of their songs promote self-confidence, body positivity, equality, and justice for women. They’ve openly supportive of the LGBTQ+ community for years as well. The group is certainly socially conscious, but what is important is that they don’t just endorse for woke points but out of their own personal experiences. And through their actions, they encourage others to do the same.
As Little Mix surpasses their nine-year anniversary, it’s clear that there’s a direct correlation between their longevity and their sense of camaraderie as a group. There are no egos among them, and each member is intrinsically equal. They have always existed as a unit.
Little Mix has the capacity to really connect with today’s generation, and while they do have their devoted fans, they have the potential for so much more. They’ve met success despite not hitting the U.S., but with their latest song “Holiday” charting high on global streaming platforms, there’s proof that a prospective North American audience is out there — their record company just has to make the effort. They would thrive with a proper push here, but because of past management issues, it’s never happened. There’s a myth that girl groups don’t pop in America, but they have the polish and experience to overcome that assumption.
They’ve achieved a level of fame most singers only dream of, but their worldwide status is best characterized as underappreciated. They should get that push, not just because they deserve it, but because they encapsulate so much that is needed in today’s world. Little Mix is outspoken and empowering and they possess many qualities that are still missing from mainstream music. They deserve a fair chance at undertaking the North American market.
Hopefully, their new label Sony RCA will treat the girls better than SYCO did and give them a fair shake with the U.S. audience. It’s time someone realizes the capacity for success that’s right in front of them. So, to Sony, we say: Don’t screw it up.