Thrown together at the bootcamp stages of The X-Factor back in 2011, Little Mix (or Rhythmix as they were initially called) appeared destined to follow in the footsteps of cannon fodder girlbands such as Bad Lashes, Miss Frank and erm, Girlband, when they were selected by mentor Tulisa for the live stages.
But instead of crashing out in week three, Jade, Jesy, Leigh-Anne and Perrie not only became the first group to win the talent show, but have since gone onto score two UK number one singles, reach No.4 in the US with their debut album, 'DNA,' and usurp The Saturdays as Britain's premier all-female act.
Striking while the iron's hot, their second studio effort in twelve months, 'Salute,' proves that the quartet have no intention of surrendering their crown any time soon. In fact, if anything, the girls have made it virtually impossible for any of their rivals to catch up.
Indeed, steeped in the kind of slick R&B that they first showcased with their cover of En Vogue's 'Don't Let Go,' its twelve tracks position Little Mix as the closest the UK has come to producing a world-class outfit worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as their obvious 90s US influences.
Currently battling it out for this week's number one spot, the tongue-clacking beats and addictive harmonies of 'Move' have already signalled that the group have upped their game considerably. But there are plenty of equally sassy tunes elsewhere.
The opening title track throws everything from war sirens to stinging guitars to military chants into the mix to create a perfect attitude-laden statement of intent. The inspired cappella intro of 'Boy' initially recalls Destiny's Child's 'Bills, Bills, Bills' before venturing into the jerky R&B territory Timbaland pioneered with Aaliyah. While produced by urban pop prodigy MNEK, 'Nothing Feels Like You' is a triumphant blend of booming basslines, dubstep-lite beats and soaring tribal melodies.
The more melancholic offerings are just as accomplished. 'Towers' is the kind of emphatic but soulful ballad that their X-Factor predecessor Leona Lewis made her name with, while the emotionally-charged piano-led 'These Four Walls' and 'Good Enough' allow the girls' noticeably improved vocals to shine in all their glory.
Cleverly playing to their strengths, Little Mix have made an impressively mature yet still utterly infectious record which should make everyone immediately stand up and salute.
Jon is a music and film obsessive from Wigan. His current favourite acts are Haim, AlunaGeorge, London Grammar, Disclosure and Jessie Ware. He has tried but he still doesn't really get the fuss about 'Blurred Lines' or 'I Love It.'
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