When girlband Little Mix aced this year's UK X Factor they were the first group to scoop the title. But that wasn't the only first for the show. For a start it was the first series not to feature its maestro Simon Cowell (who was replaced with arch-eyebrowed Take That member Gary Barlow), the winners recorded the lowest first-week sales ever and final ITV1 audience numbers were the lowest ever too (down 25% on last year's 17.2m).
But it's not all bad news. When the band's debut single, a cover of Irish songwriter Damien Rice's track "Cannonball", was released on Dec. 11, it sold more copies in a week than any other U.K single this year (210,129 according to Official Charts Company figures). But the stats show that the X Factor magic might be wearing off with previous winner Matt Cardle selling more than double in the first week with his debut "When We Collide" last year. No contestants have ever topped the 2005 winner Shayne Ward's record of 742,180 copies of his debut, "That's My Goal" in the first week (though he was later dropped by Syco).
Interestingly, Damien Rice's own version of his song has now entered the U.K charts again (it got to 32 when first released in 2003) at number 23.
Little Mix - comprising Jade Thirlwall (18), Leigh-Anne Pinnock (19), Perrie Edwards (18) and Jesy Nelson (20) - were put together in the boot camp stage of the competition and mentored by British judge Tulisa Contostavlos. They impressed the public and judges with their beatboxing and emerging friendship. Contoslavlos said on the show, "The minute we put them together I just knew, there is something special here. These guys are going to go far."
Little Mix took 48.3% of the public vote, beating Liverpool hairdresser Marcus Collins to the top spot in the final, which took place at London's Wembley Arena on December 10 and was televised on ITV1 to an audience of 12.9 million.
When they won, fellow Louis Walsh described them as the new Spice Girls. Whether they will go on to sell 75 million records like the aforementioned girl group is rather unlikely, their X Factor label Syco is behind them all the way.
Says Syco MD Sonny Takhar, "It was really clear to me very early on that this was a girlband like no other that had previously appeared on the show." He adds, "They had worked out who they wanted to be from the very start, from the music to imaging. The other thing that struck all of us, which I think came across very clearly to the audience was that these girls had grown into real friends."
The label begins work on the as-yet untitled debut album in January and the girls have been very clear in their brief. Says Takhar, "It is a pop/R&B album with edge, a sound that will clearly differentiate them from other girlbands in the current space," adding, "It's TLC meets the Spice Girls."
Says Jesy Nelson, 'We'd like the album to have an urban edge mixed with pop. We've got the vocals, the beatboxing, the rapping, so we just want put all that into one and make it a little mix of everything. A little mix of Little Mix. We want to do this for a long time, so we don't want to pretend who we are."
And Takhar is convinced there will be worldwide appeal: "We have very high hopes," he says, "the album we are making will have global ambition. It is early days but there is a lot of overseas interest not only from our affiliate companies but also from the world's best songwriters and producers."