Barely a year after forming as a four-piece vocal group on the U.K. version of “The X Factor,” the members of Little Mix were already inspiring fan madness when they touched down in Australia for their inaugural visit last October. After being mobbed at Sydney Airport by screaming fans, the quartet regrouped in a tour bus and received an unsanitary expression of affection outside of it.
“Someone licked a window,” recalls the group’s Jesy Nelson. The group proceeded to laugh it off as the tour bus sped away. “It’s a compliment though!”
Little Mix, the U.K. girl group comprised of 21-year-old Nelson, 19-year-old Perrie Edwards, 21-year-old Leigh-Anne Pinnock and 20-year-old Jade Thirlwall, is getting used to the pandemonium, after becoming the first group contestant to ever win the U.K. “X Factor” in December 2011. Nelson also says that she’s seen lots of fans with tattoos of lyrics from “Wings,” Little Mix’s boisterous single that hit No. 1 in the U.K. and Ireland late last year.
“Wings,” which encourages individuality learned from maternal advice in a way that’s reminiscent of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way,” is creeping onto U.S. radio, and the song has sold 29,000 downloads since being digitally released in the States on Feb. 5, according to Nielsen SoundScan. And the members of Little Mix are cautiously confident that success across the pond is in the offing.
“It’s not daunting. It’s exciting,” says Pinnock of a potential U.S. takeover. “It’s always been our dream from the start — we always said we wanted to be international, so we’re just going to work our bones off and hopefully it works out for us.”
After emerging victorious on “The X Factor” in late 2011, Little Mix spent much of last year recording and promoting its debut album, “DNA.” The LP was released overseas last November and debuted at No. 3 on the U.K. album chart, with an impressive 53,000 copies sold in its first week. Less than two months later, Little Mix inked a stateside deal with Columbia, the same label that helped One Direction enjoy a massive 2012.
“DNA” will hit U.S. album shelves this summer, while “Wings” will continue to be pushed to pop radio in the States, months after making an impact in the U.K. “It seemed like the introduction to Little Mix,” says Edwards of the single, which has amassed 36 million YouTube views for its official music video since July. “It gets our individual personalities across, and it’s got a really good message, which we want the fans to have.”
Next up is a lot more time focused on the U.S.: they’ve been asking fans, or “Mixers,” to tell them which stateside cities they should check out first for their upcoming promotional run. Thirlwall says that Little Mix hopes to spend the next few months expanding not just the location of Mixers, but also their demographics. “We still have that young-girl fan base, but it’s grown every day,” she says, “and now when we perform on tour, there’s a lot of men, a lot of women, and it’s a quite varied audience.”
Of course, Little Mix is keenly aware of the comparisons to One Direction, considering their label and “X Factor” past, and simply hopes to follow in the superstar boy band’s footsteps. “The 1D boys have been really supportive,” says Nelson. “They basically told us to go over [to the U.S.] and be ourselves. There’s nothing more you can do — you just gotta try your best and hope for the best.”