Why Can’t Little Mix Make it in America?
Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Jade Thirlwall — collectively known as the smash girl group Little Mix — know how to get sh*t done.
With four #1 singles in the UK, and their four records selling upwards of 2 million albums combined worldwide (along with winning their first Brit Award in February of 2017), it’s a track record to make even Beyoncé impressed.
It looks like the perfect setup for world pop domination, but there’s just one issue.
Little Mix can’t seem to break America.
You could easily blame the distance at first thought, but the Atlantic Ocean hasn’t stopped UK acts from continuing their success on a different continent. The Spice Girls sold over 85 million albums worldwide, making them the most successful girl group of all time. One Direction shattered everyone’s expectations with their longevity and global record sales. And way before tumblr and Instagram made it easy to reach a worldwide audience, the Beatles hopped from the UK to America to pretty much invent pop music.
Of course, there have been many groups that haven’t met the same fortunate fate: Girls Aloud and The Saturdays barely made a blip on the US radar, despite topping charts in the UK. Union J and JLS may have topped charts in England (with a premiere album debuting at #6 and 5 number one singles in the UK respectively), but they couldn’t tackle the same feats abroad.
Regardless, there are clearly documented examples of overseas artists becoming international phenomenons. Girl groups, boy bands, solo artists- it’s all been done before.
So why can’t Little Mix do it?
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Little Mix won first place on The X-Factor, making them the first group (and the first girl group, nonetheless) to ever do so. Week after week, they captivated both the judges and the viewers with their incredible vocal stylings and ability to make each song truly their own.
Each member of Little Mix boasts powerful vocal capabilities that would have allowed them to shine as solo artists, but they instead prefer to entertain to the world with their unique blend of voices. The girls perform intense choreography while maintaining proper tonality as they sing live. Yes, they may lack in areas like “height” and “topping American charts,” but no one can say that they aren’t true artists.
Even though the group sometimes wear things that make you tilt your head to the side while squinting your eyes in an attempt to possibly understand what inspired them when they got dressed that morning, it doesn’t detract for how these girls are born performers. Plus, for every one questionable Little Mix outfit, there are at least two more of them killing the game. Talent has nothing do with how well-dressed you are, and that’s why Justin Bieber still exists.
So could it be the glass ceiling that lurks over the heads of American girl bands?
Something happened in the early 2000s where it suddenly wasn’t acceptable to have more than one big girl group anymore. Gone are the days where you could hear Destiny’s Child and TLC right after each other on the radio. Our nation’s history has proved that you can have more than one girl band at a time, but it seems to be a fact that we now shy away from. Instead, we got the Pussycat Dolls followed by several years of nothing.
The solo-artists-turned-girl-group-via-reality-show formula was such a success for PCD that it served as a predecessor when it came to creating future girl groups like Fifth Harmony, with whom Little Mix are frequently compared. Fifth Harmony currently holds the unofficial title of “America’s Girl Group,” after coming in third on the United States’ version of The X-Factor. Their album sales are also impressive enough to rival Little Mix, which caused for the two of them to be pitted against each other.
When Camila Cabello left Fifth Harmony at the end of 2016, weapons were sharpened and a war composed entirely of tweets began. Instead of “I hope everyone ends up happy,” it turned into “who will sell more albums?” and “will Little Mix finally take over for Fifth Harmony?” It felt like a side had to be chosen and that no one could remain truly neutral.
The competition is different for solo artists: you can have a Beyonce, an Ariana Grande, and a Lady Gaga all co-existing peacefully. The average American brain can comprehend that. But if you put a Little Mix and a Fifth Harmony in the same category? Blood will be shed. It’s almost like you can’t have more than one successful girl group at once.
Unlike women, guys don’t have to claw their way to the top like some kind of musical Hunger Games. 5 Seconds of Summer, although they now have a decisively rockier sound, got their big break by touring with One Direction. Both groups have experienced monumental success. Both N*SYNC and the Backstreet Boys managed to share the charts in order to become pop culture icons in a new wave of teen performers. We could have the Jonas Brothers and Big Time Rush. Did the world need both of these bands? No, probably not. But they definitely got them. There seems to be an overabundance of men making music, but the same can’t be said for everyone else.
Women getting shafted isn’t a new concept in the United States. From making less than men for doing the same job, to having limited rights to their bodies, ladies seem to have to work twice as hard in order to reap the same results. Sexism continues to be a major issue in the music industry, and it could potentially deter young girls from wanting to follow their dreams.
In order for Little Mix to make it big in America, they have to convince people that the country doesn’t have a maximum capacity for girl groups. Until they can do that, they’ll continue to dominate every other chart in the world but ours.