Review: “Not a Pop Song” is self-aware

Little Mix acknowledges their reputation in “Not a Pop Song,” released October 9.


Photo Columbia Records

The cover art for Confetti, the upcoming sixth studio album for Little Mix.

Amelia Foster, Print Managing Editor

Little Mix is the rare girl group that lasts, having celebrated their nine-year anniversary in Aug. 2020. Despite them continuously releasing quality pop albums, they remain underrated and constantly criticized. Their recent single, “Not a Pop Song,” from upcoming album Confetti is a strong hit, and it acknowledges the criticism that female artists often face.

“Not a Pop Song” has been teased since March, when band member Jade Thirlwall posted a snippet on social media. When the song was finally released last Friday I listened to it attentively, and I’m glad I paid so much attention. The best part of the song lies not in the sound, but in the lyrics.

Little Mix has been in the public eye for nine years now, and have accumulated much judgement that boy bands simply don’t get. “Not a Pop Song” is their first song to directly reference their reputation, with Thirlwall starting out the song softly singing “They look for picture perfect / Don’t look deeper than the surface.” The rest of the song keeps a similar mood, calling out the stigma that women face at every turn.

The song repurposes a common phrase in the lyric “I don’t do what Simon says,” alluding to Little Mix’s time with Simon Cowell. Confetti is their first album since their split from SYCO, Cowell’s record label. It’s nice to hear their growth in this song, as they went from over-managed members who barely had any say in what they do with SYCO, to a girl group that is involved in every step of the music-making process.

Despite the strong lyrics declaring that “This ain’t another pop song,” and that they’ve come into their own, I wish they’d truly commit to the message. The youngest member is 27 years old, and yet they still censor the end of the chorus with “I don’t give a what.” Making the song Kidz Bop friendly doesn’t help their cause.

Over the course of their five—soon to be six—albums, Little Mix has experimented with many kinds of pop, but they’ve never truly left the genre. When this song’s title was released I got excited, wanting to see what they’d do with the sound.

On a surface level, “Not a Pop Song” sounds exactly like every other pop song on the radio. Maybe that was intentional, and it was supposed to demonstrate that they’re going to do what they want no matter what other people think, but it would have been interesting if they’d explored other genres for the song.

Although this is still speculation, “Not a Pop Song” may have a deeper meaning when viewed as part of a whole. “Not a Pop Song” is the third single for Confetti, and the first two songs also address their reputation in more subtle ways. “Break Up Song” could be a reference to how people claim all they do is make break up songs, and “Holiday” might be an allusion to how they’re criticized for constantly going on holidays. If so, the album would be something they’ve never done before, and I’ll be counting the days until it’s released on Nov. 6.

“Not a Pop Song” may not be the first time Little Mix has written about sexism, but it’s the first time they’ve explicitly sung about the specific kind of sexism they face as a girl group. The lyrics are hard-hitting and cutting—until the one line that they aren’t—and their voices are as angelic as ever. If “Not a Pop Song” proves anything, it’s that Little Mix never misses.