Little Mix touched down in the U.S. last year with surprising force, scoring the highest-ever chart debut for a British girl group's first album. (Sorry, Spice Girls.) But might success have come too soon for these alums of the U.K. "X Factor"? Where the women put across an up-for-anything spirit on their debut album, "DNA" — most memorably in the effervescent disco-funk jam "How Ya Doin'?" — here they sag under the weight of too many wind-swept piano ballads and booming productions seemingly modeled on
's "Roar." You hear power in the music, but also the group's determination to hang onto it.
Flashes of the playful old Little Mix appear in the dubstep-laced "Move" and "Nothing Feels Like You," a bubbly dance track built on a percussive hand-clap groove. And "Competition" has a campy musical-theater quality that puts the group's new dramatic streak to good use. But more typical of "Salute" is the dreary "These Four Walls," about "the feeling that the end has come." What a buzz kill.
One and a half stars