After sneaking in before the first lockdown and then being pushed later this year, the reinvigorated comeback of the 2021 BRIT Awards was a momentous occasion for music fans – and one even more so for women artists. Having drawn rightful scrutiny for the lack of representation in the nominees for last year’s awards (Mabel was the only woman nominated across 25 possible slots for the mixed-gender categories).
2021’s shortlists were far more inclusive: the Haim sisters scooped Best International Group – the first group of women to do so since Destiny’s Child in 2002 (!) – Arlo Parks topped a successful year winning Breakthrough Artist, with more gongs going to Griff, Billie Eilish, Tay Tay and Dua Lipa. And then there was Little Mix, who, in 43 years of BRIT Awards history, became the first group of women to win Best British Group, ever.
Now a decade into their career, it’s easy to forget that the group began their journey on The X Factor around the pinnacle of its power. Outliving One Direction by many a mile, Little Mix has extracted themselves from the disposable music industry churn of teens who can sing and dance to establish indomitable longevity. Their collective union has always been their power.
“At the BRITs, they were quick to sincerely thank former member Jesy Nelson in their acceptance speech, as well as make dedications to ‘Spice Girls, Sugababes, All Saints, Girls Aloud, all of the incredible incredible female bands'”
At the BRITs, they were quick to sincerely thank former member Jesy Nelson in their acceptance speech, as well as make dedications to “Spice Girls, Sugababes, All Saints, Girls Aloud, all of the incredible incredible female bands”. It is easily part of why they are so adored by fans – their individual personalities shine, but they’re still your favourite girl gang.
Their growing confidence in their autonomy has become ever-apparent in recent years, first with Jesy’s acclaimed BBC Three documentary Odd One Out seeing her confront body image and online bullying. Most recently, Leigh-Anne Pinnock joined Jesy with her own BBC outing, Race, Pop and Power, examining racism in the British music industry.
As the only Black member of Little Mix, Leigh-Anne has felt the implications of discrimination throughout her career, from the workings of the industry to the subliminal biases of fans. While news of her documentary gained scrutiny from critics understandably stating that – as a light skinned woman – she might not be the right person to be discussing colourism, Leigh-Anne countered that, given her platform and extensive fanbase, she would “rather say it not exactly right than say nothing” at all.
“It’s not easy being a female in the UK pop industry,” Leigh-Anne said in the group’s acceptance speech, “We’ve seen the white male dominance, misogyny, sexism, and lack of diversity. We’re proud of how we’ve stuck together, stood our ground, surrounded ourselves with strong women and are now using our voices more than ever.” We can all salute that.
Nicki Minaj, Drake, Lil Wayne – ‘Seeing Green’
Young Money, reunite! One of three new tracks to be snuck into the re-release of Nicki Minaj’s iconic 2009 Beam Me Up Scotty – which has just landed on streaming services for the first time – ‘Seeing Green’ enlists Lil Wayne and Drake for a slice of 00s reminiscence. A chunky five mins, the track is a perfect new intro to the mixtape with solid verse after solid verse over sampled harmonies and chilled beats.
Priya Ragu – ‘Forgot About’
For someone only three singles deep, Priya Ragu has made quite the impact with her quietly confident sound. Following in the wake of debut ‘Good Love 2.0’ and the irresistible ‘Chicken Lemon Rice’, latest cut ‘Forgot About’ is a silky slow jam that ruminates on the heartache of unrequited love.
Laura Mvula – ‘Got Me’
Taken from her anticipated third album Pink Noise, Laura Mvula’s new music really is throwing it back to the power pop stomp of the 80s (clock that rhythm – what does that groove remind you of?). New single ‘Got Me’ carries on the charge of ‘Church Girl’ with its wriggling bass, brass and big choruses: Whitney fans, eat your heart out.
The Go! Team – ‘Pow’
Capturing the breezy energy and clattering beats of old school hip-hop, The Go! Team’s new cut ‘Pow’ is a potent shot of high-octane fun. Seeing Ninja take the reins this time around, the track flips between bouncy basslines and gleeful flutes; it’s chaotic in a way that makes perfect sense.
Bella Poarch – ‘Build A Bitch’
TikTok star turned musician Bella Poarch has had a very Gen Z rise to recognition, but the Phillipino-American sensation has the tracks to back up the hype. Channelling the same vibe as Ariana Grande with sugary vocals and slick pop-meets-R&B, the sentiment of ‘Build A Bitch’ carries more bite as it challenges the unrealistic aspiration of perfection.