Music, like any other media, is a powerful teaching tool. It consciously constructs messages through certain devices and then sends out those messages into the world that listeners grasp and assimilate. It is a medium through which messages are often subconsciously taken in that have the potential to form important values for life for listeners and to shape their perspectives. Music has the power to invoke emotions that most of us come to associate with the messages, and the two tend to amalgamate together to leave long-lasting impressions on listeners. Taking note of the power of music, I believe it is important to use it responsibly as a device to put out powerful, wise and relatable messages into the world.
Throughout a career spanning 10 years, Little Mix has been doing exactly that. Little Mix are a British quartet who rose to prominence in the 2010s. The girl group has been noted for their involvement with the feminist, female empowerment, and women’s rights movements. Much of their music conveys powerful messages on topics including feminism, bullying, empowerment, gender equality, body positivity and sexism while also being catchy and touching upon multiple different music genres. Their audience is majorly females in their adolescence or early adulthood, a time when many young people are forming ideas about life, relationships, self-worth, and their own personal identity. Therefore, Little Mix’s music has the power to influence these ideas and impressions, and they use it for good to convey messages that empower young people. All criticisms aside, I believe that the girl group has (pretty much) responsibly used music to unapologetically express their voice, write songs that actually pack more of a punch and promote empowerment. By now you can obviously guess that they’re one of my favourite artists on my playlist, and I will discuss 3 different themes that the girl group has touched upon in their discography and artistry that are ever so relevant for young adults in today’s time and age:
Their entire 5th album “LM 5” was an uplifting ode to women. The only genre that I can think of that it belonged to is “fierce, sexy and self-assured”. It’s song “Strip” brings forth a conversation about unnecessary body expectations that are placed on women. It sends out a message of self-love while the girls passionately sing about overcoming struggles that arise from body shaming. It encourages young people to feel good about themselves and their physical appearance and points out how it is okay to have flaws. It is important to note how visuals are used here to construct and communicate meaning. The song album artwork features the words “talentless”, “insignificant”, “fat”, “weak” and “not good enough” covering the naked bodies of the Little Mix girls as they pose. As they stand covered in the slurs that they receive most frequently on social media, the girls send a powerful message of acceptance, embracing your bodies and celebrating your sexuality while lifting each other up. Now that is empowering. That is Girl Power in action. The song also has unconventional beat changes and a chorus so catchy you’ll find yourself humming to it long after you’ve heard the song. In ways like this Little Mix sends out messages about female empowerment through catchy tunes and a repetitive chorus that tends to leave strong impressions on their audience. Moreover, Little Mix followed their single by sharing their own unfiltered personal experiences of their struggles with their appearance (e.g. Perrie Edwards shared her story about freckles, Leigh-Anne about her afro hair, Jesy Nelson about her weight) and how they came to embrace their insecurities. In a world where bullying and body shaming are regrettably so common, Little Mix serve important reminders every now and then that it is okay to love your own skin.
Empowerment and self-love is not just restricted to females, but is inclusive of all communities, genders and races.
2016 saw the release of Little Mix’s 3rd studio album, as well as the single “Secret Love Song”. It’s a pop-inspired ballad that was openly dedicated to the LGBTQ+ community by the girls, who used the song as means to empower the LGBTQ+ community and help them deal with their sexuality. Moreover, Little Mix makes sure to dedicate every live performance of the song by displaying a pride flag in the background. The band are amazing LGBTQ+ allies. In their ‘Only You’ music video, the band showed a same-sex romance. Representation like this is so necessary; it allows the queer fans to feel heard and gives them messages about how to feel empowered by owning their sexuality. For the debut performance of their single "Shoutout to My Ex", Little Mix made sure to be as inclusive as possible. Their female back-up dancers all wore shirts with the names of their exes, including female and gender-neutral names. It is events like these that prove that the band wants to empower ALL genders, not just women. Moreover, Leigh-Anne posted a message on social media encouraging her young, black followers to love their skin colour and afro hair. Social media actions such as these become powerful reminders of how empowerment is for everyone, regardless of colour. Little Mix have also communicated through their music that empowerment is ageless. Cited as a girl power and gay anthem, the girl group used their song “Power” to lyrically address gender equality and empowerment. The members also featured their mothers in the music video, showing each member’s mum striding alongside their daughter. I found this representation really unique and interesting. The inclusion of their mothers was symbolic of the fact that empowerment is ageless: it is for all generations. The song confidently gives out a message of recognising the importance of equality, of representation and of respecting women of all ages, all generations.
Friendships are a consistent and recurring theme in Little Mix’s discography. That’s because the members themselves share an unbreakable bond. Throughout their career they have demonstrated how much power there is in friendships. They are four women who have been running pop together. Even for females, their entire discography and concept is a fortification of sisterhood, a show of strength and solidarity. Their title tracks “Between Us” and “Nothing Else Matters” have central themes of friendship and the powerful chemistry these ladies share through lyrics that are very endearing and downright sweet. Few songs can accurately depict power of a strong friendship, and the hope that strong friendships last forever. These are songs that not only emphasise on the power of friendships and advocate for uplifting each other, but they will also make you want to run to your closest friends and dance with them as if “nothing else matters”. This powerful messaging of celebrating friendships and sticking together, appreciating and uplifting each other is ever so relevant to take away for the audience, especially in a world where young adolescents often feel alone or detached or sometimes even “ostracized” from family or society. During these times it is important to stick together and be there for each other, and Little Mix teaches us exactly that through media.