Little Mix set to play Birmingham's Genting Arena tonight
They are Britain’s biggest all-girl pop group. And fans will get four chances to see Little Mix when they headline Birmingham’s Genting Arena tonight – before returning for three shows on November 17 and 18, with a matinee on the last date.
The formed during the eighth series of The X Factor and are the only group to win the competition. Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock and Jesy Nelson have enjoyed success on both sides of the Atlantic, scoring four top five hits in the UK – including a number one with present album Glory Days – as well as becoming the first the first girl group since the Pussycat Dolls to reach the US top five with their debut album. They also earned the highest debut US chart position by a British girl group, breaking the record previously held by the Spice Girls.
Their entry into the world of pop, however, was remarkably precarious.
In 2011, Perrie, Jade, Jesy and Leigh-Anne individually auditioned successfully as soloists for the eighth series of the UK version of the X Factor.
They failed the first challenge of the bootcamp section but were allowed another chance to compete. They were placed in two separate ensembles by the judges, with Perrie and Jesy in four-member group Faux Pas and Jade and Leigh-Anne in three-member group Orion.
Both groups failed to make it through to the next stage but two members from each group were recalled to form the four-piece group Rhythmix, sending them through to the judges’ houses section.
A dispute over their name ensued with Rhythmix, a Brighton-based children’s music charity of the same name, and they agreed to change their name to Little Mix.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Little Mix won the show with a cover version of Damien Rice’s Cannonball and they achieved an international breakthrough when their DNA tour hit the road in 2013. The album reached number three in the UK while the USA and Canada both made it a number four hit.
Salute followed a year later. It debuted at number seven in the Irish albums chart and number four on the UK albums chart while in the USA it reached number six on the US Billboard 200, selling 40,000 copies in its first week.
Get Weird was just as successful, hitting the upper reaches of charts around the world and spawning the hit singles Black Magic, Love Me Like You, Secret Love Song and Hair.
And the band’s fourth album, Glory Days, finally gave them a number one hit – as it sold more than one million copies around the globe and won a Brit Award for the number one single Shout Out To My Ex. And as well as being a hit among fans, it was also popular with the critics – one writer called it ‘chart pop perfection’. Its 90,000 sales in its first week in the UK made it the fastest-selling album since David Bowie’s Blackstar, released more than 10 months earlier.
The band has been avowedly determined to go their own way and set their own rules. There have been celebrity romances, a range of controversies and plenty of times when they’ve gone out of their way to be silly.
“We’re young girls and we’re going to be daft sometimes,” Perrie told a recent interviewer. “What we stand for is making people feel good about themselves. That’s what we love about people looking up to us.” She pauses. “Obviously, don’t copy everything we do.” There was also a difficult adjustment period as the band got used to being famous.
Jesy added: “When we first started, Perrie and Jade lived in Newcastle, but we had to be together so we stayed in this fancy hotel in London.” Jade was accused of stealing a lamb shank – because the band thought everything they received was a gift – not a purchase.
Jesy said: “These were the times when we was really naive to it all and she thought everything was free. So she literally ordered the most expensive thing on the menu and the next day her bill was so ridiculous she was like, ‘I can’t pay that!’”
A similar thing happened in Topshop when the store was closed for the X Factor contestants to be filmed having a quick browse. Jesy said: “We got to the till and they were like, ‘Oh wow, girls, you’ve got a lot here. It was like Supermarket Sweep. We owed them £1,500, but we thought it was all free.”