Saturday, 3 December 2011
Girlbands - The boyfriend-stealer principle
If there's one act in this year's X Factor that seems to have bucked all the usual trends, it's Little Mix. Normally, girlbands are the first to be booted out of the show as lacklustre support from the public sees them dropping like flies compared to the big personalities and individualism of the solo contestants.
Why have Little Mix managed to do so well in the live shows where so many of their predecessors have faltered? You could argue its down to styling, good song choices, a lack of strong competitors, but both the girls themselves and their mentor Tulisa have raised another interesting factor that bears considering.
Speaking to The Sun about Little Mix, Tulisa explains: 'They are endearing. They don’t seem like the kind of girls who are going to nick your boyfriend. They’re the kind of girls whose shoulder you want to cry on.'
On the level, the idea that a member of a girlfriend might actually steal a potential female fan's boyfriend is pretty far-fetched. What Tulisa is referring to is a far more sub-conscious level of the psyche. When we decide if we like a band or not a whole load of algorithms go through our head at lightning speed, many of them based on simple questions like do we actually like their music or not - but equally, many tap into deep-rooted fears and desires. One of these is - in the case of girls - is the boyfriend-stealer principle.
Here, the girlband prompts the paranoia part of our brain, stirring suspicions: 'These girls are really hot. I see them as competition. If my boyfriend sees them, he's going to fancy them. He's going to fancy me less compared to them'. Irrational fears, yes, but sub-conscious, automatic reactions - and all this plays into that on/off decision of whether the girl picks up the phone and votes for the girls or goes out and buys their single in the shop.
Speaking to Heat magazine, Little Mix revealed how their fanbase was primarily female:
'We don’t really get very much attention from boys, I think people think we’d get loads of guys asking us out, but we don’t. We get loads of messages from girls, but hardly any from boys.'
As Tulisa mentioned, these fans are seeing the girls more as pals than as potential competition. Why is this? Arguably, it is because Little Mix play to a more plain street-smart vibe than uber-glossy, super-sexy groups like The Saturdays. When The Saturdays are charting at a dangerously low No. 23 in the official album charts, it has to be asked why the connection with a young, female fanbase isn't there to the degree it should be. The boyfriend-stealer principle probably comes into it.
When it comes to purchasing music, the sub-conscious is often a powerful vibe. Continuing with the example of the Saturdays, go to one of their gigs or a club playing one of their singles and you'll undoubtedly see just as many guys as girls enjoying the music. But when it comes to buying the music, parting with their money to become the owner of a 'Saturdays CD' - far less likely. These guys might fancy the hell out of these girls and casually enjoy their music while in the company of friends, but their deep-rooted masculinity cannot extend to allow them to purchase the music.
These principles are only a small part of that innate music-buying, but sometimes, it's that small part that tips the balance, that makes the difference between a yes and a no.