Wings (Little Mix Song)
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Wings Little Mix Song

Little Mix - Wings (Official Single Cover).png
Single by Little Mix
from the album DNA
Released24 August 2012 (2012-08-24)
StudioThe Music Shed, London
  • Thomas Barnes
  • Peter Kelleher
  • Ben Kohn
  • Iain James
  • Perrie Edwards
  • Jesy Nelson
  • Leigh-Anne Pinnock
  • Jade Thirlwall
  • Erika Nuri
  • Michelle Lewis
  • Mischke Butler
  • Heidi Rojas
Little Mix singles chronology
Music video
"Wings" on YouTube

"Wings" is a song by British girl group Little Mix from their 2012 debut studio album DNA. The group wrote the track with production team TMS and songwriters Iain James, Erika Nuri, Michelle Lewis, Mischke Butler and Heidi Rojas. It has an empowering message inspired by Little Mix's overcoming of the doubt and negativity they felt during the eighth UK series of The X Factor, being a girl band and the favourites to be eliminated after the first week of live shows. Eschewing dance music popular at the time, "Wings" is a bubblegum pop and 1990s-style R&B song composed of syncopated handclaps and a varying kick and snare drum arrangement. It has a complex song structure with a double chorus that unlike most in popular music, builds with a key change from E minor to E major halfway.

The track was released as DNAs lead single on 24 August 2012; it debuted at number one in the UK and Ireland, making it Little Mix's second consecutive number-one single in both countries. It also charted in the top 10 in Australia and Japan, the top 20 in New Zealand and at number 79 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was well received by music critics; it appeared in year-end lists by Popjustice and No Ripcord, and was shortlisted for the 2012 Popjustice £20 Music Prize. The Max & Dania-directed music video shows the group dancing in front of personalised backgrounds. Little Mix promoted the single with live televised performances on T4 on the Beach, Friday Download, This Morning, Red or Black? and Daybreak. The song has been performed on all five of the group's tours, the most recent being the Summer Hits Tour 2018.

Writing and inspiration

Little Mix performing "Wings" during their 2013 DNA Tour.

After winning the eighth UK series of The X Factor and topping the UK Singles Chart with their cover of Damien Rice's "Cannonball" in 2011, the members of Little Mix were adamant about being involved with the writing of their first original single. Perrie Edwards said, "It's our name on it. If we're not happy, then I think people will see straight through it."[1] The group wanted the single to be instantly recognised as a Little Mix song when it was played on the radio and believed that without their own input, the track would misrepresent their sound.[2] After working with several producers for around a month and being new to group writing,[3] the band struggled to find a song with which they were satisfied until the production team TMS played them a backing track of "Wings".[2] Jesy Nelson recalled, "my hairs stood up on my arms and I was like 'Oh my god!', and I looked at the girls and I went 'That's our first single.'"[3]

According to TMS, they were drawn to Little Mix's personalities and ambition to make "a really cool, vibrant pop record", and the song "just flowed".[4] Unlike attempts with previous collaborators, the group's writing session with TMS and songwriter Iain James was quick and organic.[3] They had so many ideas and verses for the track that they could not decide which to include.[2] The band wrote most of "Wings" with TMS and James but writing continued until they felt the song was complete.[5]Michelle Lewis, Erika Nuri, Mischke Butler and Heidi Rojas are also credited as songwriters.[6] It was important to Little Mix for "Wings" to showcase their vocals individually, and have complex harmonies and melodies.[2]

The group wanted to take a risk and eschew dance music, which was popular at the time;[7] and instead chose a more retro-style pop and R&B sound[8] that was influenced by the music of Beyoncé and Michael Jackson.[9] Jade Thirlwall said, "It was really important for us to bring something fresh and different to the table".[7] The track was recorded at The Music Shed in London and was mixed at MixStar Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia.[10]

The song's lyrics originated from doubt and negativity experienced by the members of Little Mix during their time on The X Factor, their experiences as a girl band and as the favourites for elimination during the first week of live shows.[3] They were disheartened by odds overheard in the show's green room and paparazzi teasing of their elimination interview on This Morning the following Monday.[11] "Wings" was also written as an uplifting message for the group's fans to relate to.[12] The band, however, did not want the song to sound "cheesy" or as though they were preaching; instead, they wrote it with a theme of maternal advice using the line "Mama told me not to waste my time".[1] Regarding the lyrics, 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]


Composed in E minor with a time signature of 4
, "Wings" is a bubblegum pop and 1990s-style R&B song with a tempo of 112 beats per minute.[14][15] The music comprises syncopated, double-timed handclaps,[16][17] and a varying kick and snare drum arrangement.[18] Other instruments include guitar, keyboards, as well as woodwind and brass types: alto, Baritone and tenor saxophones, trombone and trumpet.[10][19] Brief use of wobbly bass synthesizer during verse intervals add a contrasting dubstep element.[18][20] "Wings" has a complex song structure, as follows: introduction, chorus, verse, pre-chorus, double chorus, verse, pre-chorus, double chorus, breakdown, double chorus, outro.[17][21] Little Mix's vocal range spans from B3 to E5.[14] Journalist Alfred Soto writes that the song "never stops for a breath."[17]

Using the song's only brass accompaniment,[17] the brief introduction ends with a B7 chord.[14][21] An Em chord then introduces the four-on-the-floor arrangement and first chanted chorus,[14][18] backed by sparse drums and rhythmic ad-libs.[21][22] During the verses, a bass synthesizer creates an interval between each member's solo, on the preceding member's last line.[14][18] The pre-chorus has a chord progression of Am7-Bm7-Cmaj-D, while the double chorus has a sequence of Em-G6-Dsus2-C-Dsus2-E-G-D-C6-Dsus2-E.[14] Unusually among double choruses in pop music, "Wings" has a key change to E major halfway on the harmonised lyric "fly", sustaining the song's momentum. This is built up by transition effects and a brief return to the four on the floor kick drum sequence. The group's vocals then become more sustained and use melisma as the stereo widens and pitch increases.[18]

The second verse starts with eighth note delay taps on the first lyric "I'm", which gradually becomes louder until properly sung, using an A-B pitch change which increases harmonic momentum by implying a return to the cadential D chord in the chorus, instead of a continuation of the tonic E.[18] A breakdown occurs after the second double chorus, where "hey" is chanted repeatedly at the end of each line in a call and response.[16][21][23] Following a third double chorus, the song ends with an outro in which the members sing accompanied by the introduction of a drum pattern reminiscent of that of a military band.[14][21][24] According to Nelson, the lyrics have a message of "believing in yourself, listening to what your mom says (because she's always right!) and just not letting any negativity bring you down."[12] Thirlwall has said that "Wings" is about the group "ever being put down and just saying, 'You know what, we don't care, we're doing our thing'."[3]


Little Mix first announced the single's release via Twitcam on 30 May 2012,.[25] The following day, its cover art was revealed on Facebook; it features a new group logo and signature icons for each member.[26][27] On 1 June 2012, the single was made available for pre-order from the iTunes Store and a short excerpt was played during the group's appearance on the British television show Alan Carr: Chatty Man.[25][28] The full lyrics of the song were shared in PDF format on the band's official website on 28 June 2012.[29]

On 2 July 2012, "Wings" premiered on BBC Radio 1's The Greg James Show and a lyric video was shared on Vevo.[30][31] To promote the single, Little Mix embarked on a radio tour in July 2012; they visited over 20 UK radio stations and did meet and greets as part of a social media competition for their fans.[32] The "Wings" release, however, was then postponed twice, resulting in purchasers of initial pre-orders having to pre-order the single again.[33][34][35]Syco Music first released it as a digital extended play (EP) in Ireland on 24 August 2012; the song was accompanied by remixes by The Alias and Sunship.[36] In the UK, the song was released two days later in digital EP and CD single formats.[37][38]

In Australia, the single was released as a digital EP and CD single on 5 and 30 October 2012, respectively.[39][40] The same month, the group travelled to Australia to promote the track in a series of radio and television appearances.[41] On 5 February 2013, Columbia Records released "Wings" as Little Mix's debut single in the US.[42] It was sent to contemporary hit radio playlists there two weeks later.[43] To promote the single in the US, they embarked on a radio tour and met fans at shopping malls in March and April 2013.[44][45]

Critical reception

Little Mix performing the song during The Get Weird Tour in 2016.

"Wings" received generally positive reviews from music critics upon release. Tim Lee from musicOMH called it "an absolutely stomping pop song" and "possibly the best mass market pop song since Girls Aloud's heyday", highlighting its brass introduction and call and response.[23] 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."[23] Writing for the same publication, John Murphy called the song "instantly memorable".[46] Michael Cragg of The Guardian said the group succeeded "where other X Factor winners have failed by releasing a great single at the right time".[16] Cragg said 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 Aguilera.[16]The Independent called it "somewhat Christina Aguilera-ish" and wrote, "Yes that's right: X Factor winners in quite good, non-cover single shocker."[47] Joe Rivers of No Ripcord gave the single a rating of nine out of ten, calling it "vivacious, fun, brash and confident" and noting its "absolute belter of a chorus".[48] 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."[48]

Robert Copsey from Digital Spy gave the track four stars out of five and said it resoundingly lived up to expectations and was "a seriously promising start" for the group.[49] In the Daily Star, John Earls rated it eight out of ten, commenting, "Their modern, confident attitude fits in nicely with the song, while the military drums and lairy vocals show Little Mix have big ideas".[50] Fiona Shepherd of The Scotsman appreciated the "strong melodic hook and powerful delivery".[51] A writer for the Liverpool Daily Post found the song "very catchy" and "bang on for them, highlighting their vocal talents."[52] In his review of DNA, BBC Music's Al Fox called the song an "addictive, hater-baiting call-to-arms",[53] while a writer for The Skinny called it "an absolute banger",[54] and Houston Chronicle pop critic Joey Guerra said it is "ridiculously catchy".[55] Mikael Wood, writing in the Los Angeles Times, complimented the song's "big chorus" and the "chewy production touch" of its bass synthesizer.[20]

In The Irish Times, Ailbhe Malone described the song as "a stomper" akin to Beyoncé's "Get Me Bodied" and Lisa Lopes' "The Block Party" for its harmonies, clapping and "X Factors worth of attitude",[56] while Eoin Butler gave "Wings" three stars out of five, calling it a "a stomper ... in the vein of Beyoncé's 'Singles Ladies'. Just not as good, obviously."[57] In a negative review, Matt Wilkinson of NME dismissed the song as "every bit as pain-inducing as you thought it would be".[58]The Guardians Malcolm Jack found it "entertainingly schizoid".[15] Writing for DIY magazine, Eddie Argos said "Wings" sounds "like shopping in New Look", concluding; "It's obviously the best song in the country, because they won The X Factor. The public have decided."[59]

Popjustice placed the song at number 21 on its list of The Top 45 Singles of 2012.[60]No Ripcord ranked it at number 35 on its Top 40 Tracks of 2012 list.[61] "Wings" was shortlisted for the 2012 Popjustice £20 Music Prize but it lost to "Jealousy" by Will Young.[62] It also received a nomination for Best Song to Dance To at the 2014 Radio Disney Music Awards.[63]

Chart performance

In September 2012, "Wings" debuted at number one on the UK Singles Chart with first-week sales of 106,766 copies, becoming Little Mix's second consecutive number-one single in the UK. They became the third winner of The X Factor (UK) after Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke to follow up their winner's single with a second number-one single.[64] The track dropped to number four in its second week, selling 59,355 copies.[65] It spent 25 weeks on the chart and was placed at number 40 in the 2012 year-end chart,[66][67] and was certified platinum by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI).[68] According to the Official Charts Company, "Wings" has sold over 716,000 units and ranks as the group's seventh-best-selling single in the UK.[69]

The song also topped the Irish Singles Chart in its first week, making it Little Mix's second successive number-one single in Ireland.[70][71] "Wings" became the band's highest-charting single in Australia, where it peaked at number three on the ARIA Singles Chart.[72] It was certified triple platinum by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) for sales of 210,000 copies.[73] The track also reached number 15 on the New Zealand Singles Chart.[74] In the US, "Wings" peaked at number 79 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent nine weeks on the chart.[75] It was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for selling 500,000 copies.[76] In Canada, the song charted at number 69 on the Canadian Hot 100 and received a gold certification from Music Canada for sales of 40,000 copies.[77][78] "Wings" also became Little Mix's highest-charting single in Japan, where it climbed to number seven on the Japan Hot 100.[79]

Music video

Three young women and one man dance in front of backdrop resembling the national flag of the United Kingdom.
Little Mix during the music video's hip-hop dance segment in front of a large flag resembling the Union Jack.

The music video for "Wings" was directed by Max & Dania;[80] it was filmed at Elstree Studios using an abandoned warehouse set on 6-7 June 2012.[81][82] Little Mix began rehearsing choreography for the video on 3 May 2012.[83] The video was made in a 22-hour period that lasted from 04:00 to 02:00 BST, during which several retakes of the band's dance sequence were done.[84] The group regard "Wings" as their "first proper video"; their previous music video for "Cannonball" is a montage of clips of their appearances on The X Factor.[84] The music video premiered on The Box on 25 July 2012.[85]

During the video, each group member wears three different outfits, all of which portray their individual styles.[86] The video begins with a four-window split-screen in which each member mimes the song's words.[87] They then dance separately in front of brightly-coloured backdrops that represent 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 routine in front of a backdrop resembling the flag of the United Kingdom.[86][87]

On 30 July 2012, the group released footage of the video's full dance routine, most of which was removed from the final edit, on YouTube.[88] The music video was accidentally released on the iTunes Store in the US the same day as its premiere to instant sales success, but it was promptly taken down.[89] When the video was released in December 2012, Gary Trust of Billboard magazine noted that it was a consistent seller for the group ahead of the US debut of "Wings" in February 2013.[90]MTV's Sam Lansky called it dazzling and colourful, and cited the chair-dancing sequence as his favourite since that of Britney Spears' "Stronger" (2000). Lansky said, "Who needs to be high-concept when you have this much attitude?".[91] Ruth Saxelby of The Guardian wrote, "I made the mistake of watching the video with them jumping around looking fresh and confident and now the only thing I can see is a sanitary pad ad".[92] As of February 2019 the music video has received over 193 million views on YouTube.[93]

Live performances

Four young women on a stage before a pink-and-blue backdrop.
Little Mix performing "Wings" during 2017's The Glory Days Tour.

Little Mix gave their first live performance of "Wings" at T4 on the Beach on 1 July 2012.[94] The group promoted the single in the UK with televised performances on Friday Download on 13 July 2012,[95]This Morning on 20 August 2012,[96]Red or Black? on 25 August 2012,[97] and Daybreak on 3 September 2012.[98] They also performed the song along with "DNA" at the 2012 BBC Radio 1 Teen Awards on 7 October 2012,[99] and performed an acoustic rendition on The Xtra Factor (UK) on 11 November 2012.[100] In Australia, Little Mix promoted "Wings" with live performances on Sunrise and The X Factor (Australia) on 30 October 2012.[101][102] In the US, the group performed the song on Good Morning America on 7 June 2013,[103] and Live with Kelly and Michael on 10 June 2013.[104]

During Little Mix's 2013 DNA Tour, "Wings" and its remix by The Alias were performed as the sixth song and encore reprise.[105] The group performed the song wearing 1990s-style baggy jeans and personalised crop tops.[106] For their 2014 Salute Tour, the band also performed the track as the closing encore.[107] They performed wearing Grecian-themed, matching black dresses and ended their renditions with confetti showers.[108] In the US, the group performed the song twice on The Today Show (17 June 2014 and 19 August 2015).[109][110] In the UK, they performed an acoustic rendition on Weekend on 18 July 2015,[111] and sang the track a capella in Japanese on The Jonathan Ross Show on 12 November 2016.[112] The group also performed the song on Voice - Danmarks største stemme on 12 September 2015.[113]

For the first act of 2016's The Get Weird Tour, Little Mix performed "Wings" wearing bright pink leotards.[114] On 4 June 2017, the group performed the song in monochrome outfits at One Love Manchester, a benefit concert for victims of the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing that was broadcast live on BBC One.[115] In a speech ahead of the performance, Thirlwall said they wrote the track "in the hopes that it would empower people to stand together and to not let anything bring them down".[116] For 2017's The Glory Days Tour, the group performed the song wearing showgirl outfits with feather boas; during the song, golden butterflies were fired into the audience.[117] The track was also performed as part of the setlist for their Summer Hits Tour 2018.[118]

Use in media

English band Scouting for Girls performed a cover of "Wings" in BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge on 30 August 2012;[119] this performance was included on the compilation album, BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge 2012.[120] During week five of the eighth series of Dancing on Ice, Samia Ghadie and Sylvain Longchambon skated to the song on 3 February 2013.[121] In the US, "Wings" received a number of high-profile television placements.[5]Candice Glover, Angie Miller, Kree Harrison and Amber Holcomb gave a live rendition of the song during the quarter final of the twelfth season of American Idol on 1 May 2013.[122]Jessica Sanchez performed the track during the fourth season finale episode of Glee, "All or Nothing" (aired on 9 May 2013).[123] Alan Bersten, Brittany Cherry, Jenna Johnson and Paul Karmiryan samba-danced to "Wings" on the tenth US season of So You Think You Can Dance on 18 June 2013.[124]Dancing with the Stars US season 17 winners Amber Riley and Derek Hough performed the cha-cha-cha to the song during the season premiere on 16 September 2013.[125] American singer Ellona Santiago covered the track for her audition on the third season of The X Factor (US);[126] her performance has been viewed on YouTube over 14 million times.[127]

In week four of the live shows of the fifth season of The X Factor (Australia) in September 2013, contestant Ellie Lovegrove covered the song.[128]Patrick Robinson and Anya Garnis performed the salsa to the track during week five of the eleventh series of Strictly Come Dancing on 26 October 2013.[129] In November 2013, BBC Radio 3 released an orchestral mash-up of "Wings" and "Ride of the Valkyries" by a female ensemble from The Hallé and BBC Philharmonic orchestras as a charity single for Children in Need 2013.[130] On 11 March 2015, contestant Tyanna Jones performed the song during the live shows of the fourteenth season of American Idol.[131]Mollie King and AJ Pritchard performed the Charleston to "Wings" during week nine of the fifteenth series of Strictly Come Dancing on 18 November 2017.[132]

Track listing

Digital download - Remixes EP[133]
2."Wings" (The Alias Club Mix)5:02
3."Wings" (Sunship Extended Mix)4:57
4."Wings" (Instrumental)3:39


  • TMS - production, arrangement
  • James F Reynolds - additional vocal production
  • 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
  • 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.[10]



Region Certification Certified units/Sales
Australia (ARIA)[73] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[78] Gold 40,000^
New Zealand (RMNZ)[149] Gold 7,500*
United Kingdom (BPI)[68] Platinum 716,000[69]
United States (RIAA)[76] Gold 500,000^

*sales figures based on certification alone
^shipments figures based on certification alone
double-daggersales+streaming figures based on certification alone

Release history

Country Date Format Label Ref.
Ireland 24 August 2012 Digital download (Remixes EP) Syco [36]
United Kingdom 26 August 2012 CD [38]
Digital download (Remixes EP) [37]
Australia 5 October 2012 [39]
30 October 2012 CD [40]
United States 5 February 2013 Digital download Columbia [42]
19 February 2013 Contemporary hit radio [43]
South Korea 19 August 2013 Digital download (Korean version) Syco [135]


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