If you haven’t came to this conclusion already, I’ll be straightforward with you – I love female pop groups. Everything from their sound, to their wardrobe, to their stronghold attitude makes a female pop group, well, POP.
Modern pop groups typically last about 5 years, and this is for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s important to note that music labels are equipped to grow a pop star or group, not keep them at their peak. By the time a pop group has put out 4 or 5 albums, there’s a fresh new group ready to captivate a young generation of fans. Secondly, by the time a group approaches their 5-year mark, at least one band member is ready to take the next step in their career and go solo. I have far too many examples of this… One Direction, N’Sync, Destiny’s Child, the list goes on and on. Disclaimer: I say “five years” because modern pop groups put out roughly 5 albums under their label contract, once per year. You can adjust the lifetime of a pop group based on how often they release albums.
Over the years, we’ve always had a female pop group in the mainstream music industry; whether they’re at the beginning of their 5-year-ish career, or reaching their peak. There’s always a big-name female pop group because every handful of years or so, there’s a new generation of consumers (fans). Big names like Destiny’s Child, TLC, The Pussycat Dolls, The Spice Girls, and Little Mix come to mind.
Wait… hold on, Michael… did you just equate Little Mix with a group like The Spice Girls? You bet I did.
Little Mix is a British pop group, who happened to place FIRST in The X Factor: UK. Their band consists of Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, and Jade Thirlwall. Simply put, these girls are the full pop-group-package. They can sing beautifully, have incredible & interesting personalities, and they can actually dance. Oh, and they’ve sold 30 million records worldwide, making them the 9th most profitable girl groups in history. NO BIG DEAL.
Not to mention, these girls actually like each other – during interviews, they have incredible chemistry. When Perrie broke up with Zayn Malik a few years ago, she was berated on the red carpet with questions about her relationship status. Her bandmates consistently had her back, diverting questions back to their new music, and focusing on positive female pop.
So, how many times have they toured in the U.S. or Canada? *cricket* *cricket* – that’s how many. Sure, they were Ariana Grande’s opening act earlier this year, across her U.S. & Canada shows – but no solo shows. If given the opportunity, Little Mix wouldn’t just thrive in Canadian & American markets, they would dominate! So… why haven’t they?
Since the early 2000s, something weird started happening in the female pop group scene: only one major group was allowed to dominate at a time. In the 90s, you had superstar groups like TLC & Destiny’s Child; while competing for loyal listeners, their labels were OK with a bit of healthy competition. Nowadays, labels run away at the thought of competition, because it threatens their investment. A group like Little Mix does great in the U.K., “so why ruin a good thing,” might be the belief of a top music executive.
This blog post isn’t about the gender inequality in pop music, though. Unfortunately, Little Mix is unfairly being held from entering U.S. & Canadian markets because a female pop group is already active: Fifth Harmony.
I’m here to argue that the Western World deserve a pop group that is at the top of their game, and that group is Little Mix. I’m also here to argue that these groups should be able to co-exist, create healthy competition, and hold pop music to a higher standard. Instead, Fifth Harmony is allowed to be a monopoly in the American female-pop-music-group space (sorry, I know that was wordy!). Please note that any business criticism of Fifth Harmony isn’t meant to be on the girls themselves, but rather their music label.
Fifth Harmony has four members (minus the departure of the unofficial lead, Camila Cabello): Lauren Jauregui, Dinah Jane, Normani Kordei, and Ally Brooke. They placed third in the second season of America’s The X Factor in 2012, and signed a record deal with Simon Cowell shortly after departing.
Let me be clear – the American music industry wants Fifth Harmony to succeed. From the exterior, they’ve got everything they need to sell albums: the girls have beautiful appearances (that might sound shallow, but let’s be real, the music industry demands it), produce solid hits, and have established a recognizable brand. What they don’t have are things like on-air chemistry and strong live vocals, the two aspects that can make or break a band’s success. In fact, there are COUNTLESS videos on YouTube of fan-compiled examples of Fifth Harmony arguing on camera. I’m not saying they have to be B.F.F.’s, but chemistry is so important in a music group’s success. Part of the reason One Direction was so successful is that they appeared to genuinely like each other – and fans notice that!
Side note: who’s a pop group that have great on-air chemistry? Oh yeah, Little Mix!
Now, let’s discuss vocals. Their tracks from Better Together, Reflection, and Fifth Harmony are good, don’t get me wrong. But in today’s music industry, touring & live performances are key to success. In recent weeks, Fifth Harmony has put on some pretty sub-par performances – namely on Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel Live. Just watch those, you’ll understand where I’m coming from. These examples aren’t unique, either. When former band member, Camila Cabello, was part of the group, performances tended to be a bit better. Let’s be real – vocally, she held the group together.
Side note: who’s a pop group that have incredible live vocals? Oh yeah, Little Mix!
And you know what? I don’t want to tear down Fifth Harmony, because I think they have a lot of talent and promise. However, since their forced grouping in The X Factor, no one has taken a step back to ask: are these girls a good grouping? Short answer: they’re not. You can’t expect to put five artists together and have chemistry! Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t – and in this case, it hasn’t worked.
In an August 2017 interview with BUILD Series, the girls were asked how they keep going with ongoing demands and pressures. Interestingly, Lauren responds with one word: “a contract.” A CONTRACT. Could you imagine being an artistically creative person, and the one thing that keeps you going is a contract?! In my opinion, these girls don’t want to be America’s #1 female pop group, they want to be LAUREN, NORMANI, ALLY, DINAH. Individual people with individual careers.
To the record company managing Fifth Harmony – let them go. Encourage them to go. These girls are young, let them find their artistic selves instead of squeezing every last dollar out of the Fifth Harmony brand. Because I can’t take anymore sub-par performances from the “#1 female pop group”. I want to see Lauren killing it onstage with her solo album. I want to see Normani writing music. I want to see Ally prioritize herself, instead of letting her label push her into the background. I want to see Dinah figure her own sound out. At that point, you can decide if each individual artist is good enough to succeed in our music industry. However, leaving them as a group stifles creativity and holds the girls’ back from their true potential.
To the fans of pop music – the group you deserve has been across the Atlantic Ocean this whole time. Little Mix is the pop group we need, and the artists we deserve. They want to be a group. They’ve worked hard as a group. They should be given every opportunity that their group desires. That starts with tours & live performances in the U.S. & Canada, giving them a fair opportunity to captivate new fans. Their success will be the success of pop music in 2018. Because if their next record is anything close to the caliber of their fourth album, Glory Days, we’re in for a treat.
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