‘The X Factor (UK)’ came to a shocking conclusion last year when Little Mix took home the gold as the first group to win the competition. However, in addition to the raging debate regarding whether the young ladies were indeed the most deserving of the title, a pressing question was raised: could a girl group be successful in 2012?
From The Supremes in the 1960s to Salt-n-Pepa in the 1980s and TLC in the 1990s, girl groups have been staple acts in the music industry and easily dominated their respective eras. Yet, the 2000s presented a rapid decline in the number of these bands and now it seems as though Little Mix might truly be the last great hope for the model that is on the verge of extinction.
There are two key factor that are crucial for Little Mix to realise their full potential and ascend to the forefront of the music scene long after the hype surrounding their ‘X Factor (UK)’ win has passed. Indeed, if they expect to rival the successes of the major bands of the past then they need to understand the tricky formula of chemistry and identity.
Before any group of singers even enter a studio, they need a clear outline their assigned roles. Who has the strongest voice and the largest vocal range? Who is the best writer and has the most experience in the booth? Who lacks personality and is simply there to harmonise as well as provide comedic relief? Those are the questions that every manager or producer worth his/her pay cheque would have the girls answer at the beginning of the recording process.
In addition to this artistic chemistry, the girls also need personal chemistry. In other words, they need to at least like each other!
It is blatantly obvious when members of a girl group have tension. For instance, do you remember how Beyonce looked at Farah Franklin during the five months that she was a member of Destiny’s Child? Also, we can’t forget the utter disdain that the Pussycat Dolls’ Nicole Scherzinger had for Melody Thornton as exemplified by the performance of ‘Buttons’ at Fashion Rocks where Scherzinger looked upset when the latter got a few seconds in the spotlight.
If the members of a band, especially a girl group, do not have the right chemistry then they will not stay together. They would either be overwhelmed by infighting or some members would lose motivation because they are unhappy with their roles, thus causing them to leave in an attempt to start their own careers. This is where proper management plays an important role.
Let’s use Danity Kane as an example to illustrate this point. Dawn Richard and Aubrey O’Day clearly had issues with each other since the band was first assembled yet nothing was done by Diddy or their management to remedy the situation. Yes, all five members had great artistic chemistry (learn the jargon, people!) but they despised each other and without the proper guidance they split. Subsequently, we all wept and cursed Diddy’s name but that’s a story for another day.
The next ingredient in the formula for a successful girl group is identity. We all had a favourite member of TLC, Xscape and Destiny’s Child – at least until Mathew Knowles kicked somebody out. That was only possible because each member of those groups had her own identity.
Whether she is curvier, wilder, has a darker skin tone or is simply more outspoken than her bandmates, there has to be something about every member of a girl group that makes her relatable. Of course, no other band understood this point better than the Spice Girls.
Admit it: you loved the Spice Girls and to this day you remember exactly what made each member special. Scary Spice was wild and fun, Baby Spice was cute and sweet, Posh Spice was the stylish diva, Ginger Spice was the lovable whore and Sporty Spice was the tomboy. Personally, I always preferred Baby Spice because she was simply the best and if you disagree then tough luck!
That clever marketing of the Spice Girls as the ideal girl group was critical to their success. Honestly, they weren’t the best singers and certainly couldn’t dance but the ability of people to relate to each member helped the Spice Girls to become the most successful girl group of all time.
Also, a lack of identity was a possible reason for the Pussycat Dolls never realising their full potential. We were never introduced to the Scherzinger’s backup dancers and whenever Thornton was allowed to sing a few ad libs from the cupboard under the stairs, the camera didn’t stay focused on her long enough for us to figure out exactly who was singing. Thank goodness for the seeker bar on YouTube and the power of rewind.
So, now you understand the important roles of chemistry and identity in helping girl groups to be successful. Let’s see of Little Mix would utilise this formula and revive the dying model of the all girl band. If not, then we would just combine some sugar, spice and everything nice with some Chemical X and pray for a miracle.
Bonus: if you never saw the infamous performance of the Pussycat Dolls at Fashion Rocks where Scherzinger looked as though she wanted to elbow Thornton off the stage then watch it below (all the action starts at 2:25):