Petty lyrics, ridiculous outfits and the catchiest songs around: all hail Little Mix

When The X Factor claims that Little Mix are the biggest and best girl band in the world, you actually believe them.

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There’s nothing like The X Factor’s overly dramatic introductory videos to cause you to question a pop act’s success. As that recognisable deep voice boasts of the millions of singles sold by James Arthur and OneRepublic before they take to the stage, you end up feeling that these statistics are simply words peddled by a reality show trying to underscore as its ratings continue to slide.

But when The X Factor claims that Little Mix are the biggest and best girl band in the world, you believe them. Because they are.

On the show last night, Little Mix debuted their new single “Shout Out To My Ex.” It was highly anticipated by pop fans for its lyrics – which many have taken to reference band member Perrie Edwards’s high-profile engagement, and break up, with One Direction’s Zayn Malik (who is now loved up with model Gigi Hadid).

In her own words, she calls it “a four-year relationship, two year engagement ended by a simple text message,” and the song describes “four long years” with an ex who is now “in love with some other chick”. It also references “the ‘hate you’s and the tattoos” – Zayn had an enormous tattoo of Perrie’s face on his arm.

It’s the latest in a long line of tracks from the band that are catchy, girl-power pop hits (“Hair”, “Black Magic”, “Salute”), more concerned with the self-confidence of the women singing than any man they might be getting under or over. Like One Direction’s “Steal My Girl” and “Best Song Ever”, there’s a hint of “Baba O'Riley” in the background – and the song owes a lot to GRL’s “Ugly Heart”. They performed it in leotards and fishnets, oversized shirts and Nineties make up, while backing dancers gyrated in t-shirts with scored-out names of lost lovers.

Put shortly – it’s a perfect combination of strong influences, tabloid-feeding lyrics, ridiculous outfits, a vaguely empowering message and an unreasonably catchy melody. All it needs now is a female-friendship focused video and it will be up there with “Black Magic”, “Love Me Like You” and “Hair”, a trio of sheer delight released from their last album. The first group to ever win The X Factor have since transcended their reality show origins to become genuinely relevant queens of British pop. God save Little Mix. Long may they reign.

Anna Leszkiewicz is culture editor of the New Statesman.