Oh, whoever could that be…?
Katie Gill: Well this is certainly a drastic swap from their last lead single, “Black Magic.” Where that was peppy, inoffensive, “Borderline” Madonna, this starts off as more late 80s when-she-was-sexy-but-not-trashy-sexy Madonna. I’ll admit that the first verse had me a little worried. I didn’t expect the sparse instrumentations and lack of tight harmonies that’s accompany some of the best Little Mix songs. But then we got to the chorus, and that’s Little Mix at their purest Little Mix: powerful vocals perfect for rolling down the windows and screaming at the top of your lungs. And really, that’s what sets Little Mix apart from most other girl groups out there, why they’re the Spice Girls compared to Fifth Harmony’s Pussycat Dolls: they know how to have fun. And that’s what this song is: pure fun.
Cassy Gress: It’s awfully pointed of them to let Perrie, the one with the most famous ex, sing the first verse of this. The only problem is that Jesy is the only one who puts any sass into her vocal (and gets to ad-lib a high F! good for her!), and the fact that the majority of the song is under-harmonized and performed as a girl-power singalong; when Little Mix want to nail a chord, they can SERIOUSLY nail it, as in the “doooooown, oooo!” right after Perrie’s solo chorus toward the end. Gives me shivers.
Edward Okulicz: A pop song can only give the outlines of a story; the devil isn’t so much in the details, but in the telling and how much you believe it. Since rather than being a mope or an emotionless bore, it’s got sparkle and character to fill in the heights and depths you’d ordinarily have to go to the tabloids for. No digging required here, though, the song’s good enough to stand on its own.
Alfred Soto: I can hear this would-be anthem sung by Shania Twain during her peak: it’s a stick of gum chewed for cottonmouth (it should be called “Shout Out to My Ex!”). The girls hoot oh-oh-ohs as if ward off evil.
Will Rivitz: If this song’s any indication, I’d have broken up with them too.
A.J. Cohn: Not only is this the second best track featuring a shout out to Zayn Malik following the Swet Shop Boys’ “Zayn Malik,” this song is also the second best stompy kiss-off to an ex by a British girl band following G.R.L.’s “Ugly Heart,” its obvious source of inspiration, to say the least.
Will Adams: Can’t say I expected “Ugly Heart” to have such an impact on pop music, yet here we are with another chorus that takes the guitar-stomp template alternative radio loves and re-renders it in glorious pop technicolor. The difference this time is that Little Mix and their co-writers have actually given it a melody and a snappy verse to add contrast. So advantage to them.
Ryo Miyauchi: That invincible chorus is the meeting point of not only each of their exes but also your ex, my ex, all of our exes. They’re all remembered like a flip through a photo album, only for the book to be quickly tossed into the bonfire. The backhanded compliments only add more fuel to the fire as they blaze a trail for all broken hearts to follow to get better.
Claire Biddles: There’s a tendency for the “I’m stronger because you broke me: type of break-up song to sound like the singer is convincing herself of her independence and strength as much as she is convincing the listener. The hard edge of classics of the genre such as Christina’s “Fighter” or Kelly’s “Since U Been Gone” are not fake as such, but designed to match the tight, ruthless message to such a degree that we know vulnerability and lurks underneath. The song is too airtight to let uncertainty out, which is relatable because we all sometimes have to make ourselves airtight. How would we survive those first few months if not? In “Shout Out to My Ex”, the singer (or singers, but I think we all know whose ex is being referred to) is not convincing herself, because she has her friends to convince her instead. She doesn’t need to overcompensate with hardness — she can be peppy and breezy because there’s three other voices around her; you’ll never, you’ll never bring her down because she has the strength of her friends holding her up. There’s even room for vulnerability, such is the conviction of the group — you can hear it in the way Perrie’s vocal break is swept up in the other voices in the final chorus. Even when they’re about boys, Little Mix’s singles are the most honest, relatable and best songs about female friendship in pop that I can think of. Their strength is in numbers, not going it alone.