Little Mix is not just a group of girls: it is a group of girls. Ten years later, with six studio albums, 27 singles, 100 award nominations and an ever-growing army of fans across the globe, the trio of Jade Thirlwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Perrie Edwards have solidified their position as the one of – if not THE – pop groups that define our generation. They are songwriters, performers, activists, allies, mothers and businesswomen. And yet, over the years, they have spent an inordinate amount of time defending all of the above.
“When you come from a show like The X Factor, you always assume that you are puppets who just go on stage and are told what to do,” Jade explains. “But from the start, that really wasn’t the case for us. The fact that we stayed for 10 years suggests that maybe we are doing a good job… ”
With their life tied to stardom, fans have often been frustrated with the way Little Mix has been portrayed in the press. As one of them put it on Twitter, “There’s more to Little Mix than their dogs, their boyfriends, and their lockdown activities.” And so, on the eve of the release of the biggest hits album ‘Between Us’, there will be no tabloid talk: no babies, no boyfriends, no manufactured beef. For the DIY zoom appeal with bona fide pop royalty, we’re digging into the good stuff; what it takes to thrive at the top of the pop game for a full decade while enjoying each other’s company.
You know how the origin story unfolds now. In 2011, four working-class girls – Jade, Leigh-Anne, Perrie and Jesy Nelson – auditioned as soloists for The X Factor, wide-eyed and absolutely unprepared for what was to come. They failed to make it out as individuals, but were brought together by the alchemical eye of girl group legend Kelly Rowland, tying the nation together with their colorful pep. When they were crowned the winners, they were catapulted into the whirlwind of public perception, clinging to each other to weather the storm.
“We were so lucky we just clicked, right? Reflects Leigh-Anne. “We were so young, I think we needed each other. When we first sang together it was like, wow. It’s going to be something big.
“Honestly, I can’t imagine I could have done it on my own then,” Jade nods. “I think we knew early on that we wanted to be the group we would have liked to grow. We had The Spice Girls, TLC, Destiny’s Child, but it had been a long time since there had been a group with that kind of female empowerment. We set certain limits for ourselves from the start; there wouldn’t be a lead singer, and we collectively agreed that the sound would be pop with a bit of R&B. From the start, we were all on the same page.
From the sugary harmonies of “Wings” to the badass choreography of “Sweet Melody”, it’s hard to think of many female pop groups who have felt so balanced in their collective growth. Every girl has had her fair share of remarkable outfits, high marks and extracurricular commitments, and so has the songwriting; from the very beginning, they’ve all found themselves stuck in the creative process of their music, creating heart-wrenching ballads and party bangers with equal finesse.
Nonetheless, when they won Best UK Group at the Brit Awards 2020 – the first girl group in history to do so – many types of rock ‘n’ roll lined up for pop, including Noel. Gallagher. Claiming that the band was “not even in the same fucking sport” as Oasis, Noel Gallagher denounced their victory, lamenting the denigration of “real” music. In the usual way, Jade used an appearance on Never Mind the Buzzcocks to provide a now-legendary clap-back: In Her Family.
The memory of his one-liner brings a smile, but Thirlwall remains frustrated. “It is always the men who are part of these very instrumented groups; the industry as a whole is largely run by older white males, ”she begins. “Right off the bat, there’s this assumption that women can’t do it as well as they can. It’s such a strange stigma; It took Leigh-Anne and I six years to get a publishing deal as songwriters, because people just wouldn’t believe we could write. Just because you don’t have a guitar doesn’t mean you can’t sit in a session and forge brilliant pop music. This is what we do ! “