LM5: Little Mix’s Powerfully Feminist Album is a Call for Unity and Love

Opinion

By Mira Eashwaran

Feminism: the seemingly perpetual battle for women to reach complete gender equality. It is omnipresent in aspects of our everyday lives, from women experiencing the gender pay gap at work, or girls in elementary school shoved into a box of wearing pink and skirts, to even the sexual harassment women experience all the time. Catcalls, wolf-whistles, and violating stares now suffocate feminists and women, and continuously try to impede the process of equality.

The music and fame business is infamous for mistreating women, from powerful men like Harvey Weinstein or the body-shaming Kesha experienced as a teen. However, the industry features plenty of strong-willed, intelligent women who stand their ground and are not afraid of making waves. The UK girl group Little Mix stands as a conspicuous example of such bravery. The girls met on the X Factor in 2011 and went on to be the first group to win the talent competition. The group has had four UK number one singles, the most Platinum certifications for a UK girl group, breaking the previous Spice Girls record. The four girls (Jade Thirwall, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jesy Nelson, and Perrie Edwards) have had a successful career in the music industry.

The National Manthem

This album speaks to a mature feminist awakening. The first song on the album, The National Manthem, is a thirty second piece that describes a “goddess” as a “bad b*tch”, with the girls ending by singing that “thou shall be faithful and honest.” This song effectively sets the scene for a power charged album.

Woman Like Me (feat. Nicki Minaj)

“Woman Like Me” is a quintessential track for Mixers around the world. It details the older ideals of what a woman should be (quiet, polite and knowing her place) and debunks that with confidence and distinct personality traits of the girls. The track is an uptempo piece, with slivers of reggae and modern pop slipped in. The lyrics detail how the girls wonder how someone could “fall for a woman like me”: four business savvy, talented women who wear their sexualities on their sleeves and promote love and peace. The track features the iconic rap queen Nicki Minaj on the third verse, proud and confident in her feminism.

Strip

“Strip” is a song filled with body positivity and self love, the music video featuring the four girls with no makeup and showing off their bodies for who they are. The track embraces female sexuality and encourages women to love their bodies, race and femininity. The video features an emotionally charged shot of all four girls nearly naked on camera, their bodies covered with demeaning words that they have been called during their time in the industry. “Strip” is an anthem for people everywhere to love themselves and feel beautiful in their own skin.

Fierce in Fashion

(from left to right) Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jade Thirwall, and Perrie Edwards pose for their new album LM5’s cover.

Joan of Arc

“Joan of Arc” is a track that goes back to hip-hop roots, featuring an uptempo drum beat that embellishes the girl’s confidence in their sexuality and their comfort with beauty and men. They allude to Joan of Arc, a famous French heroine during the 100 years war. The song includes a distorted male voice saying, “Oh, you’re the feminist type?” and a sassy response of “Hell yeah, I am!”

The group refer to themselves as goddesses, and features difficult soprano vocals by Edwards. They own their right to love, rapping that if they’re loving someone, it “’cause they can” and they “put my own rock on my hand.”

Woman’s World

In this emotionally charged song, the girls detail the work and pay gap between men and women. They point out the insanity of women being paid differently because of “the way her body’s made.” Thirwall takes over at the pre-chorus and debunks the man’s world, singing that they should “try living in a woman’s world.” The girls bring light to the fact that they always have “shouted to be heard,” and powerfully address the disparity between the genders. They reassure listeners that they will keep fighting for women’s rights in a passionate ode. They reaffirm that women are more than their bodies; we have brains and we will keep fighting.

With this new album, Little Mix has simply reaffirmed what the music industry already knew: these girls are four insanely talented, confident women who aren’t afraid to love themselves and love others. These ladies have executive produced a musically riveting, lyrically inspiring album that will stand to be the symbol of an iconic musical era in women’s activism.

Punk Culture’s Influence on Politics

Features

By Mira Eashwaran

Punk music is typically labeled as a loud, obnoxious, and raucous cacophony of sounds varying from screechy guitar riffs to drum solos that can penetrate even the loudest crowd. It practically dominated the music scene in the 1990’s and early 2000’s, airing the laundry about mental illness, drugs, depression, politics and love. Green Day, a belligerent band incepted in Berkeley, California in 1986, still is known for being deliberately outspoken on politics, reaching their peaks during the Reagan, George W. Bush, and Trump Administrations.

Green Day, with its outspoken lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong, published their groundbreaking political album American Idiot in 2004, three years after planes crashed through the Twin Towers in New York City and one year after the U.S. invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussien’s government.

“The war on terror plays right into the kind of war that the supposed terrorists want to have with this jihad,” Armstrong told the Rolling Stone in 2005. “All of a sudden it’s not about terrorism. All of a sudden it becomes Christianity against Islam – and nothing can get the blood boiling of the fundamentalist Muslims than something like that.”

Armstrong, now a husband and father, also went through his fair share of struggle during the Vietnam War. His uncle Jay was shot during Vietnam while jumping midair in a parachute.

“From the youngest age I can remember, I thought, ‘Going in the military equals death at a young age.’ That scared the sh*t out of me and made no sense to me whatsoever,” Armstrong told John Colapinto from the Rolling Stone.

Armstrong says that he writes his songs to understand what he feels, especially during times that conversation is stagnant and invisible. He wrote the band’s bass-lined hit “Holiday” with an “apocalyptic way of writing.” Amstrong wrote the bridge of “Holiday” by pulling in phrases from Nazi Germany, the Senate, France and California. Armstrong, a polarizing force in punk music and politics, screams about the disinformation and haziness of the political environment surrounding the Iraq War, singing on the track that “this is our lives on holiday” and told Rolling Stone that the song was about people “just being stupid, tuning out and not paying attention to what’s going on”.

Armstrong isn’t the only punk rocker that understands the importance of punk culture and music culture on politics and general society. Ian Hemerlein is a graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens and his band, Kwazymoto, specializes in “experimental” music and “noise rock.” Hemerlein is 23 and majored in environmental economics and completed the Music Business Certificate at the Terry Institute. Hemerlein, who plays guitar and sings for the band, works with his friend and drummer Kody Blackmon.

Punchy Punk
Ian Hemerlein (guitar) and Kody Blackmon (drums) plays at the Caledonia Lounge on April 6, 2019 at a show celebrating their EP release. Photo by Mike White of Deadly Designs.

Although Hemerlein identifies as apolitical and indifferent to politics, he believes that “a lot of times people assume that stuff in music has to be influenced by outside forces like other bands, culture and politics. But I’m more of a fan of being a representation of your experience and being influenced by your thoughts, feelings, and experiences and looking into yourself.”

Hemerlein recounts his interest in grunge band Nirvana in high school, and says that “songs like ‘Pauly’ and ‘Rape Me’ by Nirvana definitely reflected an anti-misogynistic viewpoint that Kurt Cobain had that I thought it was cool to see, especially in 90’s grunge music. A lot of heavy music was predominantly a white-male dominated scene, so it was cool that he was an early advocate of that sort of thing.”

In terms of Green Day’s iconic song, Hemerlein said he thinks that Armstrong was “trying to make a statement on how a lot of times with these bureaucratic systems we have in place with war and the way we can treat each other. I think it can make us as people look hypocritical…”

“We have a lot of places on paper, like in our actual Constitution and religious texts that a lot of Americans use, that say that we’re supposed to be in unity and be loving and at peace with each other. But it seems like more of the time than not, we’re actually engaging in very anti-peaceful behaviors, like sending people to war.”

“I like that [punk has] always been, it can be political or not, like an attitude. To me, the attitude is…that you can say whatever you think, which is why there’s all different kinds of punk music and eras of it and how it’s affected politics and culture. It’s a way to state an opinion in a blunt, direct way,” said Hemerlein. “It really emphasizes freedom of speech in a way that freedom of speech doesn’t actually exist. Freedom of speech is supposed to be this thing that we can say whatever we want, but there’s actually a ton of ways in which we’re all censored because people are extremely offended by things. In the punk realm, I feel like [freedom of speech] exists more.”

Punk culture has had an intense effect on politics, from the Iraq War to the current political climate. It’s meant to be unleashed, free and liberating. Punk rockers today are exercising their freedom of speech enshrined in the Constitution, with no holding back.  

“Rock & roll should be dangerous,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone. “It should be striking and stir questions.”

According to Rolling Stone, as an explosive leather-ridden punk idol once screamed into a microphone, “They don’t have the power! You’re the f*ckin’ leaders! We elect these people into office! Don’t let them dictate your life or tell you what to do!”