5 Years of ‘Wings’: The Single That Launched Little Mix
On its fifth anniversary we celebrate Little Mix's first official single...
It’s hard now to imagine a time without Little Mix dominating the charts. In the six years that they have been together they have not only sold over 30 million records and topped the charts worldwide but they have also become one of the biggest pop acts in the UK today. ‘Black Magic’ and ‘Shout Out to My Ex’ have both sold over one million copies in this country alone and they are currently the most successful touring act in all of Great Britain. Flashback to 2012 though and their pop future was uncertain.
Jesy Nelson, Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock were yet to truly take off.
Of course Little Mix won The X Factor in 2011 but even then they were considered underdogs. A girl group had never done well in the competition before, let alone won it. What’s more, while their first single ‘Cannonball’ did manage to peak at Number 1 in the UK, it was also the second worst selling X Factor winner’s single of all time. Whether or not they would actually thrive as a pop act depended on their proper debut single. It needed to establish their sound and set the tone for their careers to come.
First and foremost ‘Wings’ is an undeniably incredible song. Layered with countless hooks it's an instant brain invader. Plus the horns, the claps and the marching band make for some truly magnificent production. And then there are the vocals: harmonies for days and a few Christina Aguilera worthy runs. The girls had to make a statement with ‘Wings’ and it's clear that they did.
As a group of young women who won a family friendly TV competition, it's not at all surprising that Little Mix’s core fanbase has always been young girls. What’s great about ‘Wings’ is that, while it's clearly been created with Little Mix's main demographic in mind, it doesn't feel in any way forced. Lyrically the song covers the importance of having good self-esteem and not letting any of your haters' words affect you. Inspirational songs can often feel contrived but, having each experienced bullying themselves, ‘Wings’ does not. It's more like Little Mix are giving their fans sisterly advice. When the girls sing “Don’t let what they say keep you up at night//And if they give you shhhh//Then they can walk on by” from the perspective of their mums, it feels genuine.
And this positive message is something that the girls continue to share today. Not only are they consistently there to uplift their fans' spirits and preach inclusivity but they actively engage in political issues. Every time that Little Mix perform 'Secret Love Song' in concert they dedicate it to their LGBTQIA+ fans. It may seem like a small gesture but it helps remind their LGBTQIA+ fanbase that they are loved and it encourages their other fans to ensure that they act as allies to the LGTBQIA+ community.
On top of its important message ‘Wings’ is loaded to the brim with personality. One of the reasons why the Spice Girls were so successful is because they never shied away from putting their personalities front and centre in their music. Not only that but the Spice Girls divided up their songs so that each of them had room to shine within them and Little Mix follow suit. On ‘Wings’ you can clearly hear Perrie, Leigh-Anne, Jade and Jesy individually as well as in unison and this is something that the girls have continued to do throughout their discography. Each of their voices plays a hugely important part in all of their songs.
In fact, while ‘Wings’ may not sound like any of Little Mix’s other hits, it really was a great indicator as to what Little Mix’s music would be like: forward thinking, experimental, unashamed pop. From ‘DNA’ to ‘Move’ and ‘Black Magic’ to ‘Shout Out to My Ex’, the talented foursome have never shied away from embracing pure pop and it all started with ‘Wings’. Jesy, Jade, Leigh-Anne and Perrie may have topped ‘Wings’ with the singles that followed it but that doesn’t make it any less brilliant. Since its release in August 2012 it has become a UK Number 1, gone platinum and acted as the catalyst that made Little Mix’s wings truly fly.
Plus 'Wings' still sounds just as brilliant now performed in front of a stadium full of fans, as it did on iTunes back in 2012.
After the blockbuster success of Glory Days this year, we cannot wait to see where Little Mix's wings take them next!
Words: Sam Prance
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