Little Mix On New Album 'LM5': 'We've Never Felt So Ballsy Or So Happy In Our Lives'

'People think we should stay in our lane but we'll make our own frigging lane.'

Little Mix have been all about empowerment and making people feel good from the get-go. This is an ethos that has stayed with them throughout their career - now into its seventh year - but on new album ‘LM5’, it’s clear they wanted to take things up a few notches.

Or, as Jesy Nelson puts it, they wanted to “talk about some real shit”.

While early songs ‘Wings’, ‘How Ya Doin’?’ and ‘Salute’ encouraged their young, largely female, fanbase to chase their dreams, stand up for themselves and never let unworthy men stand in their way, on ‘LM5’ they get into more specific themes relating to modern womanhood, like sexism, slut-shaming and body image, more explicitly.


When I meet the band (sadly minus Jade, who has gone home to South Shields due to a “family emergency”) at a hotel in Central London, Jesy, Leigh-Anne and Perrie are positively bursting to talk about the album, and have plenty to say about what inspired them to start speaking out this time around.

“I think we were all feeling like proper feminists,” says Leigh-Anne, as she recalls their attitude going into writing and recording ‘LM5’. “There’s so much going on in the world right now, and there was so much to say on this album. We’ve never felt so ballsy in our lives, we’ve never felt so strong and empowered and confident.”

It’s been two years since their last release, ‘Glory Days’, which mightn’t seem like much, but as Leigh-Anne points out, a lot has changed in that time.

“More people are speaking out about… well, everything,” she explains. “And that kind of gave us the confidence to feel like we could speak out a bit more about things.”

“And we’re older!” Perrie chimes in. “We’ve experienced so much since ‘Glory Days’. It just really felt right [to speak out].”

To some, a pop group who came out of ‘The X Factor’ probably wouldn’t be the first people they’d turn to for commentary on pertinent societal issues, and Leigh-Anne acknowledges that in their early days, they were far more reluctant to speak out about serious subjects “because sometimes you feel like you might offend someone or you might say the wrong thing”.

When I ask if they’ve ever been discouraged from speaking out publicly, there’s some chatter among the three of them, before Jesy turns to her bandmate and says, “go on, Pez”.

“I think, it kind of just goes back to what Leigh-Anne said about not wanting to say anything to offend anyone or say the wrong thing,” Perrie says, clearly reluctant to be more specific. “But, I think, honestly now we’ve got older and we’ve been in the industry for a long time, we’ve experienced things that we’re like, ‘do you know what? I ain’t gonna hush-hush anymore’.

“If I’m feeling something, and I’m feeling passionate about it and something’s happened to me, personally, in the band, workplace, whatever the situation, I’m going to speak out about it.”


While feminism has been a prevalent theme in pop for some time now, it’s still rare to hear the word itself on a pop track, which is why the band say they felt it was important for listeners to hear it on early album teaser ‘Joan Of Arc’.

“I always think that at the beginning, we were really scared to say that word, and say that we’re feminists,” Leigh-Anne admits. “Because… I don’t know why we were scared to say it, I really don’t know…”

“I’ll tell you why,” Perrie suggests. “Because when we started out, this wasn’t even a thing. It [existed], but it was quietly shoved under the carpet. It was a thing that nobody mentioned.

“Whereas now, seven years later, we’re women in the industry, we’re fucking powerful. So now we’re speaking out and now we’re saying how we feel and what we think, and we’re trying to make a difference. So that’s why.

“We didn’t feel it was appropriate to speak about it then. Even though we did feel that way, we did feel like we wanted everything to be equal and we believed in equality, and we didn’t think men should ignore what we have to say in our meetings and in our workplace, and everything like that, and now it’s important.

“And I’m not saying we’re jumping on a bandwagon,” she’s quick to add. “We’ve always felt like this. It’s just we have been, in the past, maybe, steered not to say it…”

Jesy says: “I think we were scared as well, to be fair. Like, we’d just started out, you don’t wanna piss anyone off. Isn’t that crazy, that you feel like you can’t stand up for what you believe in because you’re afraid you’re going to piss someone off or that it could affect your career? That’s crazy. We’ve fucking earned our right to say how we feel.”

While a lot of Little Mix fans are girls and young women, plenty of men are tuned into the messages they’re putting out there too. At a time when gender roles are constantly changing and being re-examined, do the band have a message for them?

In response, Jesy laments “our Jade’s” absence (“this is her subject isn’t it?”), before Leigh-Anne offers: “What we’re trying to push, as a group, is just equal rights. Why should anyone get treated differently, because of race, sex, or whatever? We’re all human, we all breathe, we all have souls, hearts and I guess, all we can do is keep pushing this positive message. And keep…”

“Harping on?” Jesy suggests, with a laugh.

“Yeah, basically! Keep harping on.”

Jeff Kravitz via Getty Images

The ‘LM5’ cut the band seem most excited to talk about is ‘Strip’, a track they co-wrote about the insecurities they’ve all felt as young women in the public eye, and an exciting and fast-paced ode to body positivity.

While self-love is hardly a new theme in pop (Lady Gaga released ‘Born This Way’ before the four members of Little Mix had even met), such anthems often focus on “inner beauty” and looking past one’s supposed flaws to shine a light on other attributes.

‘Strip’, on the other hand, takes a markedly different approach, celebrating what society deems to be “flaws”, with lyrics referencing “little boobs”, “big asses”, “stretch marks” and “jiggling all this weight”.

Jesy says ‘Strip’ is what she’s most proud of after the group’s seven years together, with all four girls co-directing the music video with fashion photographer Rankin (“we’re boss bitches!” Jesy exclaims) in which they appear naked, covered in the insults that have been hurled at them over the years: “slutty”, “ugly”, “insignificant”, “odd looking”, “fat”.

“When I first started out, I never wanted to talk about my weight,” Jesy recalls. “I was like, ‘for fuck’s sake, is this all I’m ever going to be known for?’.

“I wanted to be known as just the singer in the group, I didn’t wanna be known as ‘the fat one’ or ‘the one who’s bigger than the others’. It was just so draining, and I just thought, ‘if I don’t talk about this, then hopefully it’ll go away’.

“But then I was like, ‘fuck it’, we need to talk about it, because the more we do, the more we are empowering girls to look at themselves in the mirror and go, ‘I’m a normal girl, there’s nothing wrong with my body, this is normal, and I should love this’, instead of looking at Instagram and comparing themselves to other girls… that is probably not real anyway, and is filtered and FaceTuned.

“And so this was so important to us to do this Strip video because when you see it, it’s so real, like, you can’t get any realer than this video. Nothing’s been airbrushed, what you see is what you get, and it’s just about women owning it and feeling confident and loving every single part of their body. And we’ve got some incredible women in there that stand for really incredible things.”

The band is understandably frustrated that various tabloids have honed in on the nudity, rather than the message they’re trying to get across (“We’re doing something fucking positive, stop trying to sexualise us once again!!” Jesy shouts, when I mention some of the headlines), but despite the serious subject matter of the song, it sounds like they did manage to have some fun on set.


“I’m not gonna lie, I’m a bit of a prude in general,” Leigh-Anne says, on the subject of the nude shoot. “I do cover myself a little bit, I do, not because I’m not confident, but because I’m just a prude. So, it was amazing, I did feel liberated at the same time.”

“I loved it!” Jesy shouts, before noting: “Perrie loves getting naked anyway.”

“Aw, I’m like a nudist, me,” she confirms. “You should see me in the dressing room! I have to apologise to the other guys constantly.”

What ensues is a testament to what has kept Little Mix in public favour for the last seven years; their undeniable chemistry, as Leigh-Anne and Perrie go off on a tangent debating their families’ attitude to nudity growing up.

“This might sound a bit weird, but I never used to see my mum naked when I was younger…” Leigh-Anne admits, while Perrie shares: “See that’s funny, I went through loads of home videos not long ago. And I was like, ‘oh I’d love to post that [on social media]’, but my mam was like, ‘eeeeh you can’t’.

“Because, when I was younger, we were always just in knickers. Me and my brother were always, him in his undies, me in my knicks, and my mam in knickers in a top, and that’s it. We were just so close as a family, that’s just how we were brought up.”

Jesy then steps in to get the interview back ontrack, noting of the ‘Strip’ video: “I just love knowing that we’ve created this image that could possibly last… do you know what I mean?

“I like that we can look back when, sadly, this is all over... I wonder how many years it’ll be?... but we can look back and be like… we did that. And that is our sole priority being in this group. We’re not here to just sing and and dance on stage, we’re here to make a change.

“I just think no group has ever done this, and I think it was really brave of us. We’ve all been through a lot of shit as young girls and come out the other end of it, and it just felt amazing for us all to just be sitting there, knowing this image is going to come out and inspire so many people to feel bloody good about themselves.”


“I love what you’ve just said about what we’ve been through,” Leigh-Anne agrees. “Because this isn’t just us jumping on a bandwagon, or anything like that…”

“Or saying ‘look at us naked’,” Perrie interjects.

“...This is us going through shit, and actually having the balls to speak up on it now. We have all had so much fucking negativity thrown at us for different reasons. And now I think it’s so important and brave of us to come out and say all this stuff and help people. Because it will help people, think of all the people who’ll see that and feel inspired, and that’s exactly why we’re doing it.”

Perrie adds the video is intended as proof of the “light at the end of the tunnel” for their fans, commenting: “It’s about believing in yourself, and finding yourself beautiful regardless, because we all went through phases where we fucking hated ourselves. Hated this, hated that, hated our bodies, ‘why don’t I look like her, why are you like that?, why don’t I have big boobs?, why do I have small boobs?’

“You constantly compare yourself to other people and that’s when it can become really, really mentally and physically draining.”

Jesy, in particular, says her road to self-acceptance was a difficult one adding that the biggest difficulty she’s faced as a member of Little Mix is “overcoming how shit I felt about myself over the past four years”.

“I can’t talk about it because it upsets me,” she tearfully admits, pointing out: “It’s just weird, now that’s just a different person to me. And now I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.”

“The most difficult thing is probably trying to deal with your personal life and your personal shit in the public eye,” Perrie says. “And I think having to smile through when you’re broken on the inside is the hardest thing ever… but still, when you manage to do it, it’s like, ‘victory is mine!’”

“We’ve each overcome massive negativity in the band,” Leigh-Anne says, “And come out strong on the other side.” She reveals the hardest thing has been trying to get people to understand that “just because we’re a girl band doesn’t mean that we’re not credible artists”.

“You can only imagine how hard it is for us, not just being pop artists but the stigma attached to us because we’re a girl band. It’s so frustrating, but we’re doing all we possibly can to prove to people that we’re credible artists.

“We write the music, we co-produced our bloody album, we A&Red it, we co-directed the ‘Strip’ video... and we make good music! So we can’t really do any more to prove to people. We are a girl band, and we’re proud of that.”

“People think we should stay in our lane,” Perrie says. “But I tell you what, we don’t have a lane. We don’t wanna be in a lane. We don’t intend to be in a lane, and we’ll make our own frigging lane. That’s what I think.”

‘LM5’ is available to buy and stream now.

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