I have a guilty confession - on almost every season of the UK X-Factor, I shamelessly fall in love with a girl group that always bows out too early. This may simply be because of my affinity to the Spice Girls - and Girls Aloud, and the Sugababes, and the Saturdays - however my heart always breaks as, traditionally on the X-Factor, girl groups do notoriously poorly: This is because, quite frankly, in my opinion, they are often quite dodgily mentored, and often positioned as Cheryl Cole or Amelle wannabes, and tend to lack both performance chemistry and artistry.
However, as head judge Gary Barlow pointed out in last Saturday’s episode, we are week one into series eight of the show, and this year’s girl band is already the best one to ever be on the show.
The four members of Rhythmix did not have an easy start on the X-Factor: Jesy, Perry, Leigh-Anne and Jade were all cut from the Girls category and then placed into two separate groups for Bootcamp: However, both of those groups were then cut right before Judges’ Houses. When the girls thought their dreams were cut for a second time, judges Barlow, Tulisa, Kelly Rowland and Louis Walsh offered them a lifeline to leave their cut groups behind and form a new foursome. The result was a girl group called Rhythmix that, before their audition at Tulisa’s home in Greece, had never performed together.
Cut to less than a month later and the girls are receiving standing ovations from judges and being dubbed the best girl group in the UK’s largest TV program’s history. I think it’s worth looking into what went so right for these ladies:
In week one, the ladies, under the mentorship of Tulisa, performed Nicki Minaj’s “Super Bass” for the UK public, clad in a cohesive wardrobe of denim tops, high-waisted shorts, luscious red locks, and golden leggings. The combination of the high-octane vocal and candy-coated hip-hop aesthetic worked brilliantly for these ladies. “Super Bass” was a brilliant song choice because of its notoriously infectious chorus that is easily performable even in motion - and the reworking of the song to give it an even more powerful punch further magnified this. Furthermore, the styling of these ladies during their performance suggested that they weren’t trying to mimic Minaj’s style of showing off curves - their decision to dress like they were self-styled at H&M gives the teenage girls a younger feel. With girl groups, specifically British ones, it’s always fifty percent performance and fifty percent style. By taking a familiar song and “popping it up” a bit both in performance and presentation, they made the song feel fresh - even though it was on the radio forever in 2011.
Ultimately, what Rhythmix is doing best in the competition is positioning themselves as entirely different from the other girl groups of both X-Factor and the United Kingdom’s music industry: Unlike 2 Shoes, the group eliminated on Sunday’s elimination episode who had performed “Something Kinda Ooh” by Girls Aloud, Rhythmix took a much more Americanized approach and brought it home to their audience. By clearly stepping away from pop groups that the UK loved, they have put themselves into territory in the UK dominated by solo artists: While Jessie J, Lady Sovereign and Cher Lloyd all have clout in the UK, there isn’t a group equivalent. Rhythmix has an opportunity to build fans exponentially by building on their pop-hop vibe - I suspect that, with the mentorship of Tulisa, they’ll have at least a few weeks to do so. I don’t know if the girls will go all the way yet - but I know that they definitely have the power to, and deserve to, be the best ranked girl group in X-Factor history.