x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Little Mix Salute (Syco) ⋆⋆⋆

The X Factor winners deliver brassy pop that’s unmistakably British.

The talent-show format is quite long in the tooth now and even series victory can’t offer the cast-iron assurance that one’s albums won’t end up in the bargain bin a few months down the line. Little Mix won the British version of The X Factor in 2011 – the first group to do so – and their debut LP DNA, released on Simon Cowell’s Syco imprint, was a solid hit, somewhat jumbled in sound but with a cartoony ebullience likeable enough to crack Top 10s across the world. Their second album Salute feels like a largely successful attempt to imprint a more coherent style on the quartet. About the Boy and the title track channel the 1990s R&B sass of Destiny’s Child, the latter a feminist stomp of off-to-war drums and lyrics about “killer heels” that sound like weapons brandished. But the West London production duo TMS, who handle half of the 12 tracks here, make a brassy pop that’s unmistakably British and if Little Mix are eyeing anyone on the album centrepiece These Four Walls, it’s Adele: a weepy ballad set to piano and strings that gives each Mixer a chance to lead with lump-in-throat effect.