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Wings (Little Mix song)

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"Wings"
Little Mix - Wings (Official Single Cover).png
Single by Little Mix
from the album DNA
Released 24 August 2012 (2012-08-24)
Format
Recorded
  • 2012
  • The Music Shed
  • (London)
Genre
Length 3:39
Label
Writer(s)
  • Thomas Barnes
  • Peter Kelleher
  • Ben Kohn
  • Iain James
  • Perrie Edwards
  • Jesy Nelson
  • Leigh-Anne Pinnock
  • Jade Thirlwall
  • Erika Nuri
  • Michelle Lewis
  • Mischke
  • Heidi Rojas
Producer(s)
Little Mix singles chronology
"Cannonball"
(2011)
"Wings"
(2012)
"DNA"
(2012)
Music video
"Wings" on YouTube

"Wings" is a song by British girl group Little Mix. It was co-written by the group in collaboration with Iain James, Erika Nuri, Michelle Lewis, Mischke, Heidi Rojas and the song's producers, TMS. It was released as their second single after winning the eighth series of the X Factor in 2011, and the lead single from their debut studio album DNA (2012). Syco serviced the single to BBC Radio 1 in the United Kingdom on 2 July 2012 and it was released for digital download on 10 July 2012. The uptempo song, which features modern beats, drums, horns and clapping, is a pop arrangement with elements of R&B and old school. Lyrically, the song has themes of girl power, maternal advice and individuality.

"Wings" was well received by contemporary music critics, who praised its lyrical message, upbeat sound and vocals. "Wings" was the group's most successful single to date, until they released "Black Magic" in 2015. It topped the UK Singles Chart with sales of 107,000 copies in its first week. The single also reached number one in Ireland and Scotland and number three in Australia, where it was certified triple platinum. It charted in the top 40 in three other countries, peaking at number 79 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and number 26 on the US Billboard Pop Songs chart.

The accompanying music video was filmed at an abandoned warehouse. The clip shows the group dancing and singing in front of colourful backdrops and a pink Union Jack flag, wearing urban-styled outfits corresponding to the backdrops. The video received favorable reviews from critics, who praised the group's fashion sense, dancing and confidence. Little Mix promoted the song by performing it live on a number of television shows (including Red or Black? and The X Factor Australia) and during their 2013 DNA Tour.

Inspiration and writing[edit]

Every time I listen to it or I'm on stage singing it, I believe and feel every word of the song. The message is so strong. We've all got things we dislike about ourselves, but a song like that can make you feel so much better about everything.[1]

– Leigh-Anne Pinnock on the significance of "Wings".

In December 2011, Little Mix won the eighth series of The X Factor (UK), becoming the first group to do so and subsequently signing a recording deal with Syco Music.[2] A cover of Damien Rice's 2002 single "Cannonball" was released as the group's debut single and winner's single that month.[3] Although "Cannonball" became their first number one single in the UK and Ireland, the group were adamant on writing an original single to follow it up.[4][5] "Wings" was primarily written by Little Mix, Iain James, and TMS members Thomas Barnes, Peter Kelleher and Ben Kohn. However, Little Mix continued to collaborate with other writers until they felt the song was complete, including Erika Nuri of The Writing Camp, singer Michelle Lewis, Mischke, and Heidi Rojas.[6][7] It was the first song written for the group's debut studio album, DNA.[8]

According to group member Leigh-Anne Pinnock, the line "Mama told me not to waste my time" was considered an important part during the development of "Wings"; the song was in part based on the group's personal experiences of overcoming bullying.[9] Little Mix wanted the single to be something listeners could relate to without sounding cheesy.[9] The lyrics were written as an uplifting message for both the group and their fans.[10] Group member Jesy Nelson said: "There's nothing wrong with writing songs about clubs and partying but I think it's cool to do a song with meaning."[11] The song specifically drew inspiration from the group's experience on The X Factor where they felt discouraged, being the favourites to be eliminated after the competition's first live show. Nelson explained: "On our first week on X Factor the paps were all shouting 'See you on This Morning on Monday' because that's where all the losers go. I was like: 'Oh, right, thanks!'"[12]

Other inspiration came from a time when Nelson aspired to be a singer as a teenager, but was discouraged by her teachers who told her she needed a back-up plan or she would end up working at the retailer Tesco.[12] The song in turn has a theme of maternal advice; Nelson advised that listeners of "Wings" should listen to their mothers "because they're always right".[10] Group member Jade Thirlwall stated that they also wanted the song to promote girl power and to return girl groups to prominence, inspired by 1990s girl groups such as the Spice Girls.[13] "Wings" was further inspired by songs by Beyoncé and Michael Jackson.[14]

Production and recording[edit]

Little Mix immediately began recording after taking a short break to spend time with their families, following their win on The X Factor.[15] During the early stages of the song's development in January 2012, group member Perrie Edwards revealed: "We're going a bit urban, old school with a bit of pop. We wanna bring back old school harmonies. And Jesy beat-boxes and Leigh Anne raps, so we're trying out different things."[16] The recording of "Wings" continued while the group were embarking on The X Factor Live Tour (25 February–4 April 2012).[16][17] Recording took place at The Music Shed in London.[6] The group knew on first-listen that "Wings" had to be a single.[18] In March 2012, Little Mix played a demo to Syco owner Simon Cowell who was impressed, believing the group's input bettered the quality of their music.[19]

The song was produced by TMS with vocal production by James F. Reynolds.[6] While oldschool-sounding, the song was developed with a modern beat, so listeners could also dance to it.[20] The group envisioned "Wings" to be "a bit different" from other singles released at the time, and a combination of pop, hip hop and R&B.[21][22] The track was also composed with an American audience in mind.[23]

Composition and structure[edit]

"Wings" is an upbeat,[24] bubblegum pop and R&B song with elements of 1990s music[25] and a length of 3 minutes and 39 seconds.[26] It is composed in simple time and in the key of E minor with a fast tempo of 115 beats per minute.[27] The song has a minimal beat.[28] It contains a varying kick and snare drum arrangement throughout,[29] pertaining to a sound reminiscent of a marching band.[30] A number of other instruments are also used, including: an alto saxophone, a Baritone saxophone, guitar, keyboards, a tenor saxophone, a trombone and trumpet.[6][26] Little Mix's vocals span the notes B3 to E5.[27]

The track opens with a brief instrumental introduction comprising rhythmic clapping and a brass backbeat.[29][31] Before leading into the first verse, the group chant the chorus: "Mama told me not to waste my life / She said spread your wings my little butterfly / Don't let what they say keep you up at night / And if they give you shhhh / Then they can walk on by."[28][31] The arrangement is primarily four-on-the-floor during this segment (0:03–0:17),[29] leading to a sparser sound than that on the later double-chorus.[31] The lyric "shhhh" is sung as a replacement for the word "shit".[31] A bass synthesizer plays on the lyric "running up your mouth" (0:26) in the first verse.[29]

Halfway on the double chorus – on the lyric "fly" (1:01) – the group harmonize altogether and a major chord substitution takes place.[29] This is preceded by a build-up of a variety of transition effects and a brief return to the four-on-the-floor kick drum sequence.[29] When the substitution takes place, Little Mix's vocals (along with the backing vocals by James and singer Carmen Reece)[6] become more sustained and melismatic as the stereo widens and their pitch increases.[29]

The second verse is introduced with eighth note delay taps (1:20–1:22) on the verse's first lyric "I'm" which gradually increases until properly sung.[29] The lyric features an A–B pitch change which increases harmonic momentum for the second verse by implying a return to the cadential D chord in the chorus, instead of a continuation of the tonic E.[29] The second verse is shorter than the first,[31] although it also features bass synthesizer, on "ready steady go, no" (1:29).[29] A dubstep-influenced breakdown occurs after the second double chorus during which the group chant the lyric "hey" repeatedly at the end of each line.[30][31] Following the breakdown and a third double chorus, the song ends in an outro harmony.[31]

Release[edit]

It seemed like the introduction to Little Mix, it gets our individual personalities across, and it's got a really good message, which we want our fans to have.[24]

– Perrie Edwards on the song's release.

"Wings" served as the lead single from DNA.[32] Little Mix first announced the single's title during a live Twitcam with their fans on 30 May 2012,[33] and shared the single's cover art on Facebook the following day.[34] It features them against a sky-blue background, as well as a new logo comprising four icons (one for each member).[35] The cover art was designed by Studio Output.[26] The group previewed a short snippet of "Wings" during an interview on Alan Carr: Chatty Man on 1 June 2012.[33] The same day, the single was made available for pre-order with a release date of 22 July 2012.[36] However, it was announced on 11 June 2012 that the single's release was postponed to 19 August 2012.[37] "Wings" received its radio premiere on BBC Radio 1 on 2 July 2012.[38] An accompanying lyric video was posted on the group's Vevo channel the same day.[39]

Syco first released "Wings" for digital download in Ireland on 24 August 2012,[40] and in the UK on 26 August 2012,[41] after being pushed back a second time.[42] The single was later made available in New Zealand on 4 October 2012,[43] and in Australia on 5 October 2012.[44] It was also released as a CD single in the UK on 26 August 2012,[26] and in Australia on 30 October 2012.[45] In January 2013, Little Mix signed to Columbia Records; "Wings" was released by the label for digital download on 5 February 2013 as the group's debut single in Canada and the US.[46][47][48] The single impacted contemporary hit radio in the US on 19 February 2013.[49] The group recorded a Korean version of "Wings" featuring verses mainly sung in Korean; it was released in South Korea on 19 August 2013.[50]

Critical reception[edit]

Reviews[edit]

"Wings" received acclaim from critics.[51] Joe Rivers of No Ripcord gave the song a rating of nine out of ten, describing it as "vivacious, fun, brash and confident", and praising its "absolute belter of a chorus".[52] Rivers concluded: "'Wings' is really pretty darn good. Not just good-for-X-Factor good, but good-in-the-context-of-all-pop-music good."[52] Robert Copsey from Digital Spy gave the song four out of five stars, and said it resoundingly lived up to expectations and was "a seriously promising start" for the group.[28] John Earls of the Daily Star rated the track eight out of ten, writing: "Their modern, confident attitude fits in nicely with the song, while the military drums and lairy vocals show Little Mix have big ideas."[53] Daniella Graham from Metro found the inspirational lyrics to be a good fit for the group who she believed "were styled as perfect role models for teenage girls during their time on X Factor".[54]

Michael Cragg of The Guardian said the group were poised to succeed "where other X Factor winners have failed by releasing a great single at the right time".[30] Cragg wrote that the song's production made it "brilliant" and had "everything you'd want to hear in a pop song in 2012", and likened Little Mix's "ridiculous vocal runs" to those of Christina Aguilera.[30] Gordon Smart from The Sun regarded the track as a "polished slice of pop" and its lyrics "straight from the Spice Girls' book of inspirational girl power lines", comparing it to Aguilera's 2007 single "Candyman".[55] Popjustice also compared "Wings" to songs by Aguilera, and praised its outro as "so astounding that it will probably be the best outro of any song to be released this summer".[31] They complimented the track's "really breezily defiant and carefree" take on anti-bullying lyrics, and opined: "There's enough intense greatness in this song to launch Little Mix in at least eight countries that aren't the UK."[31] The website went on to deem "Wings" the best girl group single since Girls Aloud's "Call the Shots" (2007).[56]

Elizabeth Thompson of Paper magazine called it "an effervescent single with a debt to En Vogue".[57] Similarly, Bill Lamb from About.com likened the group's vocal style to that of En Vogue, and deemed the track "irresistibly catchy",[58] concluding: "it's impossible to dismiss the pop power of a record like 'Wings'".[59] Ailbhe Malone of The Irish Times commented that "Wings" was "a stomper" reminiscent of a combination of Beyoncé's "Get Me Bodied" and Lisa Lopes' "The Block Party", explaining: "Basically, this means hand claps, vocal harmonies and an X Factor's worth of attitude."[60] Ian Gittins from Virgin Media described "Wings" as a "swoon of pop bliss suggestive of Sugababes rulin Tamla Motown."[61] James Robertson of the Daily Mirror cited the track as "exactly what made the girls so popular", and in his opinion, Little Mix "made history" by becoming the first winner from The X Factor to release a second single that was a vast improvement on their first.[62] Al Fox from BBC Music deemed the song "addictive",[63] while Vicki Newman of the Shields Gazette wrote that it "firmly cemented the girls' signature sound".[64] Joey Guerra from the Houston Chronicle viewed it as "ridiculously catchy".[65]

Recognition[edit]

"Wings" placed at number 21 on Popjustice's list of The Top 45 Singles of 2012.[66] It was ranked at number 35 on No Ripcord's Top 40 Tracks of 2012 list.[67] The song was nominated for the 2012 Popjustice £20 Music Prize, but lost to Will Young's "Jealousy".[68] The single also placed at number three on About.com's list of Top 100 Pop Songs of 2013.[59] It received a nomination for Best Song to Dance To at the 2014 Radio Disney Music Awards, losing to Selena Gomez's "Birthday".[69][70] In 2015, "Wings" was voted the favourite girl group single by Billboard magazine readers, ahead of the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" and T.A.T.u's "All the Things She Said".[71]

Chart performance[edit]

"Wings" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart – for the week ending 8 September 2012 – with first-week sales of 106,766 copies, becoming Little Mix's second consecutive number-one single on the chart after 2011's "Cannonball".[72] The single fell to number four in its second week, selling 59,355 copies.[73] The group became only the third winner from The X Factor (UK), after Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke, to follow up their winner's single with a second number one single.[72] By the end of 2012, "Wings" had sold more than 380,000 copies, placing at number 40 on the year-end chart.[74] It spent a total of 25 weeks on the chart.[75] On 22 July 2013, the single was certified gold by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), denoting sales in excess of 400,000 copies in the UK.[76] As of 24 July 2015, "Wings" has sold 526,717 units in the UK.[77]

The track had similar success in Ireland where it bowed at number one on the Irish Singles Chart.[78] It marked Little Mix's second consecutive number-one single and accumulated a total of 25 weeks on the chart.[5] The song became the group's highest-charting single in Australia, debuting at number 34 and peaking at number three on the ARIA Singles Chart in its fourth week.[79] "Wings" is among the best-selling girl group singles in Australia, having been certified triple platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for sales of 210,000 copies.[80] The track entered at number 17 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, and reached a peak of number 15 in its third week.[81] It received a gold certification from Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ), denoting sales of 7,500 copies.[82]

"Wings" debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 98 for the week ending 11 April 2013.[83] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the single had already sold 97,000 copies prior to its chart debut.[84] Brian Mansfield of USA Today wrote that "Wings" was poised to become "[2013's] 'What Makes You Beautiful'" in the US.[7] However, it stalled at number 79 and spent a total of nine weeks on the chart.[83] The single fared better on the US Mainstream Top 40 chart where it reached number 26.[85] On 16 August 2013, "Wings" received a gold certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), denoting sales in excess of 500,000 copies.[86] In Canada, the song peaked at number 69 on the Canadian Hot 100,[87] and was certified gold by Music Canada for sales of 40,000 copies.[88] "Wings" became Little Mix's highest-charting single in Japan where it climbed as high as number seven on the Japan Hot 100.[89]

Music video[edit]

Background and synopsis[edit]

Little Mix during the music video's hip-hop dance segment at the fore of a large Union Jack.

The accompanying music video for "Wings" was directed by Max & Dania.[90] The group began rehearsing choreography for the video on 3 May 2012.[91] It was filmed at Elstree Studios on 6–7 June 2012.[92] As a result of several re-takes of the group's dance routine, the video was shot over a 22-hour period from 04:00 to 02:00 BST.[93] The group's wardrobe included outfits from Topshop, American Apparel and Dr. Martens.[94] The set used was an abandoned warehouse.[95] The group regard "Wings" as their "first proper video"; their previous music video for "Cannonball" was a montage of scenes from their experiences on The X Factor.[93] The music video premiered on The Box on 25 July 2012.[96]

The music video follows no storyline.[97] Each group member wears three different outfits throughout, all of which portray their individual styles.[98] The video is introduced with a screen split into four in which each member is shown singing to the camera.[99] They then dance separately in front of different, brightly-coloured backdrops which manifest their individual personalities: a flower and gramophone record backdrop (Edwards), a bow tie backdrop (Thirlwall), graffiti-decorated (Pinnock), and boomboxes (Nelson). Near the end of the video, the group are accompanied by male backing dancers for a hip hop and chair-dance dance routine in front of a large Union Jack.[98][99]

Reception[edit]

Newman opined that the visual had viral video popularity and poised "Wings" for commercial success.[98] The video was accidentally released on the iTunes Store in the US the same day as its premiere to instant sales success, before being promptly taken down.[100] When released in December 2012, Gary Trust of Billboard magazine noted that the video was a consistent seller for the group ahead of the US debut of "Wings" in February 2013.[101]

The music video was well received among critics. Sam Lansky from MTV News called it dazzling and colourful, and cited the chair-dancing sequence as his favourite since that of Britney Spears' "Stronger" (2000). Lansky concluded: "Who needs to be high-concept when you have this much attitude?"[102] Similarly, Lewis Corner from Digital Spy highlighted the group's "sassy poses, on-point strutting and [...] whole lot of attitude."[103] Rebecca Martin of Sky Living complimented their "quirky outfits" and "fun dance moves", concluding that the video "proves [Little Mix are] ready to give other girlbands on the scene a serious run for their money."[104] Sarah Deen of Metro wrote that the visual demonstrated the group's dancing abilities and "truly shows off their individual style".[99] Deen said it made sure the song "leaves a lasting impression", describing it as "eye-catching" and a "vibrant and attitude-packed pop video".[99] Ellie Ross from The Sun deemed the video "sassy" and felt it portrayed Little Mix as "fully grown up", noting that "they've stepped up their game even more since [The X Factor]".[105]

Live performances[edit]

Little Mix performing "Wings" during their 2013 DNA Tour.

Little Mix gave their first live performance of "Wings" at T4 on the Beach on 1 July 2012.[106] The group promoted the single in the UK with televised performances of it on This Morning on 20 August 2012,[107] Red or Black? on 25 August 2012,[108] and Daybreak on 3 September 2012.[109] They also performed the song along with "DNA" at the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on 7 October 2012.[110] In Australia, Little Mix promoted "Wings" with live performances of the track on Sunrise and the fourth series of The X Factor (Australia) on 30 October 2012.[111][112] In the US, the group performed the song on Good Morning America on 7 June 2013,[113] and twice on The Today Show (17 June 2014 and 19 August 2015).[114][115]

"Wings" was the sixth song, and encore reprise on the setlist for Little Mix's 2013 DNA Tour.[116] The group sported 1990s style outfits for the renditions with each member wearing baggy jeans and personalised crop tops with their names printed in graffiti font.[117] For 2014's The Salute Tour, "Wings" was also the setlist's encore closer.[118] Performances of the song ended in confetti showers.[119]

Usage in the media[edit]

English pop-rock band Scouting for Girls performed a cover of the song for BBC's Live Lounge on 30 August 2012.[120] On 1 May 2013, American Idol (season 12) finalists Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Kree Harrison and Amber Holcomb performed "Wings" during the quarterfinal round of the live shows.[121] The dance troupe of Lancaster, Lancashire performed a routine to "Wings" joint appearance with the dance troupe of York in the 2013 Roses Tournament.[122] Many of the group's fans designed tattoos based on the song's inspirational message. Leigh-Anne Pinnock later inked a tattoo featuring a musical note and four butterflies as a tribute to Little Mix fans and "Wings".[123] The song was performed by Jessica Sanchez in the fourth-season finale of Glee, "All or Nothing", which aired on 9 May 2013.[124] "Wings" was featured twice during the 21st episode of the third season of Hawaii Five-0.[125] On the third season of The X Factor USA in 2013, Ellona Santiago performed the song during her audition, doing so in front of one of the show's judges, Kelly Rowland, who was one of the judges on the UK season in which Little Mix featured on (and won).[126]

It was also featured in Baggage Claim (film) movie in 2013. In 2014, the song was covered on the television series Rising Star by contestant Alice Lee.[127]

Formats and track listings[edit]

Credits and personnel[edit]

  • Thomas Barnes – writer, drums
  • Peter Kelleher – writer, keyboards
  • Ben Kohn – writer, guitar
  • Iain James – writer, backing vocals, vocal arrangement
  • Perrie Edwards – writer, lead vocals
  • Jesy Nelson – writer, lead vocals
  • Leigh-Anne Pinnock – writer, lead vocals
  • Jade Thirlwall – writer, lead vocals
  • Erika Nuri – writer
  • Michelle Lewis – writer
  • Mischke – writer
  • Heidi Rojas – writer
  • TMS – producers, arrangement
  • James F. Reynolds – additional vocal production
  • Dan Aslet – additional vocal engineering
  • Carmen Reece – backing vocals, vocal arrangement
  • Kick Horns – brass
  • Simon Clarke – arrangement, alto and baritone saxophones
  • Tim Sanders – arrangement, tenor saxophone
  • David Liddell – trombone
  • Ryan Quigley – trumpet
  • Darren Wiles – trumpet
  • MNEK – additional programming
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing
  • John Hanes – mixing engineer
  • Phil Seaford – mixing assistant
  • Tom Coyne – mastering
  • Studio Output – design and art direction

Credits adapted from the album liner notes of DNA,[6] and the single liner notes of "Wings".[26]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[80] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[88] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[82] Gold 7,500*
United Kingdom (BPI)[76] Gold 525,300[77]
United States (RIAA)[86] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history[edit]

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Ireland 24 August 2012 Digital download (Remixes EP) Syco [40]
United Kingdom 26 August 2012 CD single [26]
Digital download (Remixes EP) [41]
New Zealand 4 October 2012 [43]
Australia 5 October 2012 [44]
30 October 2012 CD single [45]
Canada 5 February 2013 Digital download Columbia [47]
United States [48]
19 February 2013 Contemporary hit radio [49]
South Korea 19 August 2013 Digital download (Korean Version) Syco [50]

References[edit]

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External links[edit]