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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
Studio
  • The Music Shed
  • (London)
Genre
Length 3:39
Label
Songwriter(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)
"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.

Writing and recording[edit]

Little Mix wrote the majority of "Wings" with songwriter Iain James and production team TMS, although they invited input from other writers until they found the track complete.[1] It was one of the first songs written for the group's debut studio album, DNA.[2] Unlike most The X Factor (UK) alumni, the band were adamant on being involved with the writing of their first original single.[3] Band member Perrie Edwards stressed, "At the end of the day, it's our name on it. If we're not happy, then I think people will see straight through it."[3] Simon Cowell, owner of Little Mix's label Syco Music, also advised the group that the single would benefit from their own input.[4]

During initial writing sessions, they tried to combine each member's tastes in music and showcase their harmonies as well as their individual vocals.[3][5] Eschewing the contemporary dance music popular at the time, the group opted for a retro style pop, R&B and hip hop sound with "Wings".[6][7] Group member Leigh-Anne Pinnock said "it's a bit different to what's out there at the moment, and that's the risk we wanted to take."[8] Little Mix also wrote the song with an American audience in mind, and found inspiration from singers Beyoncé and Michael Jackson.[9][10]

The lyrics were inspired by the first week of live shows of The X Factor (UK) where Little Mix were the favourites to be eliminated and felt disheartened by hearing the odds in the show's green room. Group member Jesy Nelson also recalled, "the paps waiting outside to shoot us were all shouting 'See you on This Morning on Monday' because that's where the losers go. I was like: 'Oh, right, thanks!'"[11] Further inspiration came from Nelson who as an aspiring singer was told by her teachers that she would end up working at Tesco.[11] Little Mix also wrote the song as an uplifting message for their fans.[12] 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."[13] Prior to "Wings", the group had been vocal about standing up to bullying and wanted the song to have a similar message that listeners would be able to relate to. However, they did not want it to sound cheesy or as if they were preaching and instead wrote it with a theme of maternal advice.[3]

The group recorded "Wings" at TMS' studio in London, The Music Shed.[14][15] It was mixed by Serban Ghenea and John Hanes, with assistance from Phil Seaford at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[14] Little Mix knew on their first listen that it had to be DNA's lead single.[16] In April 2012, they played it to Cowell who according to the group tapped his foot to the song and called it "genius".[4][17]

Composition[edit]

"Wings" is an upbeat,[19] bubblegum pop and 1990s-style R&B song with a length of 3 minutes and 39 seconds.[20][21] It is composed in simple time and in the key of E minor with a fast tempo of 115 beats per minute.[22] The song contains a varying kick and snare drum arrangement throughout,[18] pertaining to a sound of a marching band.[23] Other instruments include an alto saxophone, a Baritone saxophone, guitar, keyboards, a tenor saxophone, a trombone and trumpet.[14][21] Bass synthesizer plays on the lyrics "running up your mouth" (0:26) and "ready steady go, no" (1:29).[18] Little Mix's vocals span the notes B3 to E5.[22]

The track begins with a brief introduction featuring rhythmic clapping and a brass backbeat.[18][24] Before the first verse, the group chant the first chorus which has a four-on-the-floor arrangement, leading to a sparser sound than that on the later two-part chorus.[18][25][24] Little Mix make use of rhythmic chanting that sometimes appears mixed down beneath the chorus, using the last word of a sentence.[26] Before the second part of the chorus, the group harmonize altogether and a major chord substitution takes place on the lyric "fly" (1:01).[18] This is preceded by a build-up of transition effects and a brief return to the four-on-the-floor kick drum sequence.[18] When the substitution takes place, Little Mix's vocals become more sustained and melismatic as the stereo widens and their pitch increases.[18]

The second verse starts with eighth note delay taps (1:20–1:22) on the first lyric "I'm" which gradually increases until properly sung.[18] It 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.[18] The second verse is shorter than the first.[24] A dubstep breakdown occurs after the second chorus during which the group chant the lyric "hey" repeatedly at the end of each line in a call and response.[23][24][27] Following a third chorus, the song ends in an outro harmony.[24] According to Nelson, "Wings" is about "believing in yourself, listening to what your mom says (because she's always right!) and just not letting any negativity bring you down."[12]

Release[edit]

Little Mix first announced the single's release on 30 May 2012, via Twitcam.[28] The following day, they shared its cover art on Facebook, featuring a new group logo as well as signature icons for each member.[29][30] On 1 June 2012, the single was made available for pre-order and the group previewed a snippet on Alan Carr: Chatty Man.[28][31] On 28 June 2012, the full lyrics were shared in a PDF format on the group's official website.[32] "Wings" premiered on BBC Radio 1's The Greg James Show on 2 July 2012.[33] An accompanying lyric video was shared on Vevo the same day.[34] To promote the single, Little Mix embarked on a radio tour in July 2012 where they visited over 20 radio stations across the UK and did meet-and-greets as part of a social media competition for their fans.[35] Syco first released the single as a digital extended play (EP) in Ireland on 24 August 2012.[36] In the UK, "Wings" was released on 26 August 2012 in digital EP and CD formats, after being postponed twice.[37][38][39][40] Purchasers of initial pre-orders had to pre-order the single again, although free of charge.[41]

In Australia, the single was released as a digital EP and CD single on 5 October and 30 October 2012, respectively.[42][43] The group also traveled to the country in November 2012 for a string of radio and TV appearances to promote the track.[44] On 5 February 2013, Columbia Records released "Wings" as Little Mix's debut single in the US.[45] It was sent to contemporary hit radio playlists in the US on 19 February 2013.[46] For the single's US promotion, the group embarked on a radio tour and met fans at various shopping malls in March and April 2013.[47][48]

Critical reception[edit]

"Wings" received acclaim from critics.[49] 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".[23] Cragg highlighted the song's production, writing that it 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.[23] Tim Lee from musicOMH called it "an absolutely stomping pop song" and "possibly the best mass market pop song since Girls Aloud's heyday", complimenting its brass production and call and response.[27] According to Lee, the track is "all shot through with such sassiness that you nearly forget it sounds an awful lot like 'Ain't No Other Man' by Christina Aguilera."[27] Joe Rivers of No Ripcord gave the song a rating of nine out of ten, regarding it as "vivacious, fun, brash and confident", and noting its "absolute belter of a chorus".[50] 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."[50]

BBC Music's Al Fox called the song "addictive".[51] Joey Guerra from the Houston Chronicle viewed it as "ridiculously catchy", adding: "All hail the Spice Girls 2.0!"[52] Mikael Wood writing in the Los Angeles Times complimented the track's "big chorus" and the "chewy production touch" of its "wobbly dubstep synth".[53] Nerisha Penrose of Billboard magazine described "Wings" as a "fiery empowerment anthem",[54] while another writer for the magazine deemed it a "punchy pop tune [...], primed to impact a larger U.S. audience."[55] In a negative review, Matt Wilkinson of the NME dismissed the song as "every bit as pain-inducing as you thought it would be".[56]

"Wings" placed at number 21 on Popjustice's list of The Top 45 Singles of 2012.[57] It was ranked at number 35 on No Ripcord's Top 40 Tracks of 2012 list.[58] The song was shortlisted for the 2012 Popjustice £20 Music Prize.[59] The single also placed at number three on About.com's list of Top 100 Pop Songs of 2013.[60] It received a nomination for Best Song to Dance To at the 2014 Radio Disney Music Awards.[61] In 2015, "Wings" was voted the favourite girl group single by Billboard magazine readers, ahead of the Spice Girls' "Wannabe".[62]

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".[63] The single fell to number four in its second week, selling 59,355 copies.[64] 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.[63] By the end of 2012, "Wings" had sold more than 380,000 copies, placing at number 40 on the year-end chart.[65] It spent a total of 25 weeks on the chart.[66] 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.[67] As of 24 July 2015, "Wings" has sold 526,717 units in the UK.[68]

The track had similar success in Ireland where it bowed at number one on the Irish Singles Chart.[69] It marked Little Mix's second consecutive number-one single and accumulated a total of 25 weeks on the chart.[70] 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.[71] "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.[72] The track entered at number 17 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, and reached a peak of number 15 in its third week.[73] It received a gold certification from Recorded Music NZ (RMNZ), denoting sales of 7,500 copies.[74]

"Wings" debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart at number 98 for the week ending 11 April 2013.[75] According to Nielsen SoundScan, the single had already sold 97,000 copies prior to its chart debut.[76] Brian Mansfield of USA Today wrote that "Wings" was poised to become "[2013's] 'What Makes You Beautiful'" in the US.[1] However, it stalled at number 79 and spent a total of nine weeks on the chart.[75] The single fared better on the US Mainstream Top 40 chart where it reached number 26.[77] 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.[78] In Canada, the song peaked at number 69 on the Canadian Hot 100,[79] and was certified gold by Music Canada for sales of 40,000 copies.[80] "Wings" became Little Mix's highest-charting single in Japan where it climbed as high as number seven on the Japan Hot 100.[81]

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.[82] The group began rehearsing choreography for the video on 3 May 2012.[83] It was filmed at Elstree Studios on 6–7 June 2012.[84] 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.[85] The group's wardrobe included outfits from Topshop, American Apparel and Dr. Martens.[86] The set used was an abandoned warehouse.[87] 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.[85] The music video premiered on The Box on 25 July 2012.[88]

The music video follows no storyline.[89] Each group member wears three different outfits throughout, all of which portray their individual styles.[90] The video is introduced with a screen split into four in which each member is shown singing to the camera.[91] 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.[90][91]

Reception[edit]

Newman opined that the visual had viral video popularity and poised "Wings" for commercial success.[90] 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.[92] 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.[93]

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?"[94] Similarly, Lewis Corner from Digital Spy highlighted the group's "sassy poses, on-point strutting and [...] whole lot of attitude."[95] 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."[96] Sarah Deen of Metro wrote that the visual demonstrated the group's dancing abilities and "truly shows off their individual style".[91] Deen said it made sure the song "leaves a lasting impression", describing it as "eye-catching" and a "vibrant and attitude-packed pop video".[91] 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]".[97]

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.[98] The group promoted the single in the UK with televised performances of it on This Morning on 20 August 2012,[99] Red or Black? on 25 August 2012,[100] and Daybreak on 3 September 2012.[101] They also performed the song along with "DNA" at the BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on 7 October 2012.[102] 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.[103][104] In the US, the group performed the song on Good Morning America on 7 June 2013,[105] and twice on The Today Show (17 June 2014 and 19 August 2015).[106][107]

"Wings" was the sixth song, and encore reprise on the setlist for Little Mix's 2013 DNA Tour.[108] 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.[109] For 2014's The Salute Tour, "Wings" was also the setlist's encore closer.[110] Performances of the song ended in confetti showers.[111]

"Wings" was performed at Capital FM's Summertime Ball in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

"Wings" was performed at Capital FM's Jingle Bell Ball in 2012, 2015 and 2016.

"Wings" was a regular part of their setlist for the Get Weird Tour and is currently being performed on the Glory Days Tour.

On 4 June 2017, Little Mix performed "Wings" at the One Love Manchester benefit concert for the victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.[112]

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.[113] 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.[114] The dance troupe of Lancaster, Lancashire performed a routine to "Wings" joint appearance with the dance troupe of York in the 2013 Roses Tournament.[115] 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".[116] The song was performed by Jessica Sanchez in the fourth-season finale of Glee, "All or Nothing", which aired on 9 May 2013.[117] "Wings" was featured twice during the 21st episode of the third season of Hawaii Five-0.[118] 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).[119]

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.[120]

The song plays during a promo for the upcoming NBC American sitcom Great News (2017).

Formats and track listings[edit]

Personnel[edit]

  • Iain James – backing vocals, vocal arrangement
  • Carmen Reece – backing vocals, vocal arrangement
  • Peter Kelleher – keyboards
  • Kick Horns – brass
  • Simon Clarke – arrangement, alto and baritone saxophones
  • Tim Sanders – arrangement, tenor saxophone
  • TMS – arrangement
  • David Liddell – trombone
  • Ryan Quigley – trumpet
  • Darren Wiles – trumpet
  • MNEK – additional programming
  • Thomas Barnes – drums
  • Ben Kohn – guitar
  • Dan Aslet – additional vocal engineering
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing
  • John Hanes – mixing engineer
  • Phil Seaford – mixing assistant
  • Tom Coyne – mastering

Credits adapted from the album liner notes of DNA.[14]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[72] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[80] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[74] Gold 7,500*
United Kingdom (BPI)[67] Platinum 600,000^
United States (RIAA)[78] Platinum 1,000,000double-dagger

*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 [36]
United Kingdom 26 August 2012 CD [39]
Digital download (Remixes EP) [37]
Australia 5 October 2012 [42]
30 October 2012 CD [43]
United States 5 February 2013 Digital download Columbia [45]
19 February 2013 Contemporary hit radio [46]
South Korea 19 August 2013 Digital download (Korean version) Syco [123]

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External links[edit]