Little Mix – Bounce Back

“You’ll be surprised by the sample.”

Tom: This hit the internet on Friday, and I guarantee that — if you haven’t heard it by now — you’ll be surprised by the sample.

Tim: Yep, that did indeed take me by surprise. DOesn’t sound entirely out of p[lace, mind, once I’m expecting it.

Tom: Unfortunately, that sample’s the only good bit of it, as far as I can tell.

Tim: Also true.

Tom: The lyrics sit in a weird uncanny valley between rap and actual singing. The producer’s choice to near-constantly move every sample around in the stereo space is just irritating. This was the lead single off the album? Granted, Tim, we’re not the target audience for this. Presumably the kids will love it.

Tim: Maybe? I don’t know.

Cheat Codes, Little Mix – Only You

Interesting tradition we have here, isn’t it?

Tom: I’ve become quite disconnected from the charts lately: I know there has to be some measure of which tracks are Most Popular Right Now, but since the music industry isn’t about sales any more it all seems a bit arbitrary.

Tim: Perhaps, although as a measure of which of tracks are Most Popular Right Now, it’s better than it’s ever been – right now, it goes by what people are actually listening to. Sure, it turns it slightly into a self-fulfilling prophecy if playlists get based on it, but other than that it’s hard to argue against it.

Tom: Recently the official UK chart started counting not only Spotify streams, but YouTube views. Which means a brand new music video appearing really can act as a ‘single launch’ these days. So, up this week eleven places to 29, it’s…

Tom: …a song that, for once, I heard on the radio and thought “that’s really good, what is it?”

Kygo’s influence — or at least, the influence of the style that he codified — is pretty clear here. But it’s well-composed and well-produced too, with vocals just as good as you’d expect.

Tim: Yep – can’t deny any of that. This is a pretty good Little Mix tropical pop song.

Tom: Also, note how well the pre-chorus flows into the chorus: well enough that I’d say it’s difficult to separate them.

Tim: Hmm – interesting you say that, because while you’re right, I do find a sudden jump between the verse and the pre-chorus, which I really wouldn’t normally expect.

Tom: Unfortunately, as soon as you hear that vocal sample in the instrumental chorus as saying “t-it-ty”, the whole thing falls apart. But until then, it’s a great track.

Tim: Interesting tradition we have here, isn’t it? Actively bringing up ways which might spoil the song for each other. But yes, until you said that, it’s a great track.

Little Mix feat. Stormzy – Power

“The album version does not feature Stormzy.”

Tom: The album version does not feature Stormzy. That’s because when the album came out Stormzy — while he was well established in his genre — hadn’t hit the mainstream yet. What better way to liven up a fourth single?

Tim: I can think of a number of ways, to be honest, but sure, let’s go with it.

Tom: Incidentally, I just realised that’s a cameo from their mums in the video (and in the thumbnail), and that’s just lovely.

Tom: Putting “Girl Power” on the side of that van in the start of the video can only be a deliberate Spice Girls reference.

Tim: And a good one – “yes, you’ve done this, now we’re here to keep it going”.

Tom: I know we’re normally extremely skeptical of guest-rap-middle-eights, but this is good. That’s partly because it kills off one of those godawful “motorbike-motorbike-bike-bike-bike” bits, and partly because, yes, Stormzy is that good.

Tim: For the most part, yes, and I had less trouble with it than I normally would. “All them dirty secrets that we share, I’ll clear the browsers” stuck out a bit, mind, though it was soon redeemed by “as long as I’m alive, then I’ll be sponsorin’ your pride / you know there’s power in a couple, let me compliment your vibe” – I like that a lot.

Tom: One of Little Mix’s strengths are their incredible voices, so it’s always a little disappointing when they’re hidden behind layers of vocoders — or when one of them tries to do a Nicki Minaj, as here. But leaving aside those points: this is a hell of a track. Fourth singles from fourth albums aren’t meant to be this good.

Tim: No, and to be honest I’m surprised I enjoyed it as much as I did – when the first post-chorus breakdown came along I was a bit “aargh, no, DON’T LIKE THIS”, but somehow the second didn’t seem so bad. A grower, but a quick grower.

Tom: It’s fair to say that Little Mix are this generation’s Spice Girls: but the Spice Girls only managed three albums.

Little Mix – Secret Love Song

“It’s a builder.”

Tom: It’s a builder.

Tom: “What exotic location are we going to film the new video in?” “That office block next to Tower Bridge.” “Oh.”

Speaking of which, if you’re going to greenscreen Derulo’s prison window — there’s no way an apartment looks like that — at least make it vaguely geographically accurate. Don’t just paste the London Eye in next to Tower Bridge, for crying out loud.

Tim: What’s even weirder is the angle they’ve got the bridge filmed at, making it look as though he’s in some magically floating brick structure right in the middle of the river.

Tom: All of this talk about the video is basically covering for the fact that, while this song should really be everything I like in Big Emotional Pop, most of it leaves me a bit cold. The autotune’s too strong, the middle eight’s poor, and those emotional, quavering notes just sound like they’re trying a bit too hard. The first few lines of the chorus? Great. The rest? Not so much.

Tim: Hmm. It doesn’t help that there are multiple points in there where I want to segue into Love The Way You Lie – tell me you don’t find yourself thinking “just wanna stand there and watch you burn” 26 seconds in – which immediately provides a comparison where this one definitively loses. Regardless, I won’t be as harsh on it as you, because I like all of the chorus, and I’m happy with the big notes. You’re very definitely right about the autotune, though.

Little Mix – Love Me Like You (Christmas Mix)

“Pretty much the lowest-effort remix possible”

Tim: Here’s a recipe for you: take one of the best pop choruses of the year (albeit one that could probably do with being sped up 10% or so); blend together with a flavouring of extra jingliness to complement that which is already there; gently fold in some chiming bells; place on various music platforms and wait for the festivities to commence.

Tom: Ah! And presumably that’s a recipe for a “cash-in”.

Tim: Did anyone ask for this? Not really, but I don’t care, because it’s utterly ridiculous and it’s got me somewhere between giggling stupidly and feeling very very Christmassy.

Tom: It’s utterly unnecessary, but considering it’s pretty much the lowest-effort remix possible and it’ll make its money back with Christmas party DJs buying it to throw into their mix for late-December… well, it’ll do. And to be fair, the original track stands up well on tis own anyway.

Tim: I’ll be honest, I’ll be surprised if this manages on its own to break down anybody’s humbug wall, because it’s somewhat pointless – one could argue, probably successfully, that it’s mostly designed just to fit on that many more Christmas party playlists. I can’t think of any other reason for it; on the other hand, it’s gone straight on my Christmas party playlist.

Little Mix – Love Me Like You

Tom: This isn’t so much Motown-inspired as “how close can we get to the Ronettes without getting sued“.

Tom: “You might got the biggest ca-aa-ar.” I completely misheard that on the first listen, and I suspect from the following lines that I was meant to.

Tim: Yes, I got quite disappointed when I realised what it actually was.

Tom: Leaving those nitpicks aside, though: how good does this sound? Incredibly clear production, Motown-style harmonies, and successfully recreating the Wall of Sound with some more modern instrumentation chucked in there.

Tim: Aye, it’s very good. I do like this style that Little Mix hit on every now and again, because they seem to do it very well indeed – it’s certainly better than when they advocate roofies, at any rate.

Tom: There are very few other groups you could get away with this right now: without the existing fanbase, I think it’d be rejected as being too retro and too weird. But with a solid fanbase and a track record of switching up styles and genres with every single: yes. I can see this doing very well indeed.

Tim: Well, here’s hoping it does, then.

Little Mix – Black Magic

“Really creepy when you start to deconstruct it.”

Tom: This is on every damn radio and TV playlist right now, enough that it’s starting to irritate the hell out of me.

Tim: Weirdly, I’ve heard lots of good stuff about it, but have somehow never heard it myself.

Tom: And, of course, it’s not released in the UK until next month, despite it already being out in the US. Because that makes sense.

Tim: You’ll be pleased to know that may well be the last time you make that complaint – GLOBAL RELEASE DATES, as of July 10th, every Friday. Let’s see if that hangs around as long as On Air On Sale did.

Tim: Oh…oh, yeah, I have heard it. A good number of times.

Tom: Let’s skip over the video, which — as with everything that plays love potions for comedy — is really creepy when you start to deconstruct it.

Tim: And the lyrics, in that case, because yes.

Tom: The song. It’s catchy. Really catchy.

Tim: Again, yes – it’s been a while since I’ve heard quite such an instant ear worm. I’m not resenting it particularly much.

Tom: Now, I reckon that’s because the backing is basically “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and the first bit of the chorus is “St Elmo’s Fire”, but I can’t deny it’s catchy. I just wish it wasn’t being played every bloody hour on the music video channel in the office I’m working in right now.

Tim: Hmm. If you’d like a slight change, perhaps this remix of it will help you? It’s bloody wonderful, for starters, and it comes with considerably less Cyndi Lauper.

Little Mix – Change Your Life

“Are these four the new Spice Girls?”

Tom: Each single by Little Mix has been rather different from the last. Cannonball: winner’s single cover. Wings: talky-shouty self-help. DNA: obsession dubsteppy love-song. Can they keep that going?

Tom: Hmm. Well, we’re back to the talky self-help lyrics, which I’ll admit I’m not a fan of.

Tim: Possibly not (though I’ve got no issue with them), but the rest of it’s just brilliant. Ish.

Tom: This time they’re backed with strings, and the whole thing seems a bit more… well, traditional. I was almost hoping for a key change.

Tim: You know, I had the exact same-thought, which is why I had to stick an “ish” in there earlier. It’s a shame they’ve gone out of fashion, because my word, one would have fitted there perfectly.

Tom: Still, a connection’s just been made in my head: are these four the new Spice Girls?

Tim: What?

Tom: Manufactured group, wide variety of songs, and – while the phrase itself hasn’t been used in a long time – ‘girl power’.

Tim: Huh. Not a bad argument, actually.

Little Mix – DNA

“They could share a stage with Nightwish.”

Tom: So if Credibility Cardle’s been forgotten, what about last year’s starlets? Wings was popular but a bit all-over-the-place. The second single is…

Tom: Ooh. Well. Several thoughts from this video: first of all, if they’re going to rip off the Sin City movie, at least they’re doing it well. Second of all: their target audience isn’t going to know what the hell they’re doing developing printed photos.

Tim: True, and true.

Tom: And as for the song: well, they’ve got a sound that, as far as I know, no other mainstream group’s doing. There’s some proper full-on orchestral harmonising going on there: if they went much further down that road they could share a stage with Nightwish. It’s good, if not what I expected from an X Factor girl group. They’re meant to do cheap pop hits to dance to, surely?

Tim: Well, you’d think, but with these voices – especially the opening two – that would be a huge waste. They sound incredibly mature, if that’s the right word, for a group of young girls who’ve barely hit twenty. This sounds like a group who’ve been going five years, not one, and I’m very impressed. If they’re doing stuff like this I’m very glad they won.

Tom: Not that I’m complaining: I’m not sure it’s going to be a regular on my playlist, but it certainly deserves to hit the charts.

Little Mix – Wings

“SUPER.”

Tom: Well, it’s about time. Seven months after their Christmas Number 1, they’ve finally announced their single. And it’s…

Tim: SUPER. (And about two months earlier than a normal X Factor single, actually.)

Tim: SUPER.

Tom: …hmm. Well, I’m not sure what it is. I’m sure it’ll get into my head over a few listens – and I suspect I’ll get to hear it every time I turn on the radio – but in the meantime I can’t quite wrap my head around it. It’s not bad, that’s for sure.

Tim: ‘Not’ being something of an understatement.

Tom: While I like this trend for lyric videos – Cee-Lo really got them going a couple of years ago – there is an art to them. Most of the time for popular artists, the designers know what they’re doing; but there are some sentences that shouldn’t appear one word at a time. “SPREAD YOUR” and “MY LITTLE BUTT” beg for a completely different conclusion, and that’s just in the first verse.

Tim: The colours are pretty here, though.

Tom: Wait, hang on. That’s not the first verse. That’s the first chorus. “Don’t bore us, get to the chorus” is a good pop catchphrase, but that’s taking it to ridiculous levels.

Tim: Oh come on – it’s hardly unheard of for songs to open with the chorus. Unusual, maybe, but it does get right to the heart of the song and let everybody know what it’s about straight away.

Tom: In summary: they’ve made a decent track.

Tim: Woah, woah, woah, you’re leaving it there? Without mentioning the great up-tempo pre-chorus? Or, more importantly, the glorious second half of the chorus?

Tom: I don’t know: maybe it’s just Not For Me; I can’t seem to get my brain enthused about it. (That may be the vaguest piece of music reviewing I’ve ever written.)

Tim: Or the fact that technically, wings are made to help other things fly?

Tom: Ooh. That’s some top-class pedantry there.

Tim: You’re very kind.