British girl group Little Mix continue the rapid release of albums usually associated with X Factor contestants, as Glory Days becomes their 4th album in just 5 years. Despite showing quite a few brief flashes of both their individual talent and their cohesiveness as a group, Glory Days ultimately does not do much to rise above their previous works and falls into tired girl group cliches quickly. In a similar vein to fellow reality show girl group Fifth Harmony’s 7/27 earlier this year, the talent level which is clearly on display here does not match up to the final product that is delivered – although on an even more disappointing level. If the whole project sounded like its best moments, we’d be looking at a very strong R&B release instead of a sub-par pop one.
The best moments I speak of come early on in the tracklisting, being the one-two punch of “F. U.” and “Oops”. Both tracks have somewhat of a retro, doo-wop influenced flair, and showcase the singing voices of the group better in a more R&B-leaning environment. “F.U.” is another in the long line of great 3/4 time doo-wop tracks this year that began with Rihanna’s “Love On The Brain”, as the group begins to layer their voices on top of each other in a slow build in intensity culminating in a brief and stunning beat drop-out as they lament the cheating yet charismatic man they can’t seem to leave, while Charlie Puth brings his old soul by producing and lending his vocals to the whistle-backed “Oops”, which sounds like a regretful sequel to his own “Marvin Gaye”.
Another strength is that like in “F.U.”, Little Mix really know how to convey a huge musical moment effectively, usually through the use of larger, minimalistic beats and added harmonies. The few dance-oriented songs on the project, “Power” and “Down & Dirty”, do this well — the chorus of “Power” is just that, a powerhouse, and when harmonies are added and the beat is reduced to a stadium-sized stomp-clap pattern, the shakiness of other elements of the song is forgotten. And I can always appreciate a good Game of Thrones reference – “I’m bringing the fire, so call me Daenerys”. Individually, the group members are very strong, but the instrumentals can tend to let them down, often by not matching their power. Other than Puth, the album has few recognizable names in its production credits.
Judging by the strength of their voices, a slower track like “Nobody Like You” should theoretically knock it out of the park, but instead it overstays its welcome and becomes more boring and melodramatic than it needs to be. On the other side of the spectrum, some tracks like “Private Show”, with its chorus backed by obnoxious honking horns and a very loud synth line, are way too overproduced for a group with 4 powerhouse voices. But even the vocal side suffers in places. When we’re in the realm of the bubblegum pop music that dominates most of the album, an earworm of a hook is expected but these tracks don’t stand out like they’re supposed to. A lot of the melodies actually have some strange note choices in them and have strange jumps, it’s almost as if they are straining to hit a big note that doesn’t really have any business being there. All of this combines to make the last 5 tracks of the album some of the worst pop music I’ve had to sit through all year.
While perhaps toned down from their early work, Little Mix can still tend to be far too cheesy for their own good, like an attempt to revive some of the spirit of the Spice Girls. Some of these songs sound like they could be from an alternate universe where Disney movies are bad. The lyricism might be the album’s weakest aspect, especially on “You Gotta Not” – a song concept that they essentially lifted from “Suga Mama”, an older Fifth Harmony song. The title is shouted after every line criticizing a man’s childish behaviour. If he changes his ways? “We can boom boom boom baby fall in love”.
Like most artists under the watchful eye of Simon Cowell, Little Mix’s musical direction is misguided, and they likely don’t have much of a say in the matter. I’d offer hope for the future based on the positive aspects of some of the work here, but on their 4th studio album there likely won’t be much change until they’re out of their contract with Syco Records. Still, the individual members of the group have proven themselves to be great singers – the music they release just doesn’t fully reflect this.
Favourite Tracks: F. U., Oops, Power, Down & Dirty
Least Favourite Track: Private Show