Monday, May 9, 2016

Thank You | Meghan Trainor



People really do hate Meghan Trainor. There are people out there with a distaste for this woman that burns as intensely as the sun. They hate the whole package: the novelty pop tunes, the strangely accented speaking voice, the newest revival of vintage doo-wop, and most definitely the lyrics. And as somebody who tries to convey himself as an amateur critic with a clue of what's what in the music industry, I'm not supposed to have a soft spot for her. But I do.

The argument used to portray her as a body-shaming, anti-feminist monster, while as tired as the summer day is long, is the typical reasoning. Stemming from "All About That Bass" and "Dear Future Husband," skinny girls feel attacked because larger girls have finally been told that they can be just as confident in their appearance as their thinner peers, and straight guys hate the idea that they, too, can be objectified -- despite the fact that it comes from a much more innocent place than the objectification of women in, say, most critically-acclaimed rap music or the Grand Theft Auto video game series.

Yet through it all, Trainor has stuck around. Why? I would argue it's because she has what it takes to maintain a cross-sectional audience: a bright, lively voice, a knack for a good hook, and a certain level of innocence. Grandpa and grandma like her because she throws them back to their glory days; mom and dad like her because she glazes adult themes with a doe-eyed, safe-for-work coating; and the kiddos like her because she knows how to craft a damn fine tune. The most lyrically mature, she isn't. The most impressive vocalist of our generation, she isn't. But a sufficient pop star who is aware of her place in the popular culture landscape and well-versed in the art of crafting a pop track, she is.

Moreover, she's pretty versatile for your run-of-the-mill pop girl. Doo-wop was Trainor's genre of choice, but the signs were there to indicate that she wouldn't stay in that category exclusively for long. So when she unleashed "No," a track that channeled the early '00s pop scene with the same caliber of expertise Carly Rae Jepsen exhibited in reference to the '80s on her latest album, it wasn't as surprising as probably expected. Also unsurprisingly, she has come under fire for the destruction to the fragile male ego, which had finally gone into recovery when big bad Meghanzilla fell silent for vocal chord surgery and this album's recording. Here, her message is straightforward: the power that lies in the word "no" should be respected. Additionally, she argues that women shouldn't give up their fun in fear of persistent harassment from a man in the club.

"No fair!" the men have cried. "She is teaching girls to be jerks!"

Yes, you read that correctly. This song has been conveyed as a prompt for women to reject men and then tease them with their bodies. A woman declined your persistent requests and continued to dance with her friends in her cute outfit, did she? She wrote a cute little pop song about it, did she? She must be a real bitch. That's really the only explanation, isn't it? Ah, yes. Because just as Meghan Trainor, destroyer of all natural order through the medium of pop music, transferred every shred of confidence from thin girls to thicker ones, she also ruined any chance of club-going guys getting laid until kingdom come. What a bitch. (She's almost as sinister as Beyoncé, whose newest single promotes police brutality, don't you think?)

But get used to it: if her sophomore album, Thank You, proves anything, it's that, for better or for worse, Meghan Trainor isn't going anywhere.

The album is a meeting room for a plethora of genres. Doo-wop, the genre she revived in popular culture without anybody asking her to do so, has become heavy inspiration instead of the album-wide crutch that it was on Title. Although it does re-appear in full-force on "Dance Like Yo Daddy" and in lesser capacity on "I Love Me" with the tickle of an upright bass, the genre is much less important this time around -- and thankfully so. The doo-wop domination was cute the first time around, but the novelty of the schtick died off quickly. (Need proof? Check the reviews of Charlie Puth's Nine Track Mind, essentially the faceless male counterpart to Trainor's Title.) So in its place, an aughts dance sensibility takes precedence, spiced with the extra flavors of vintage R&B, tropical house, and light trap -- and honestly, she flaunts it all very well. In fact, the best aspects of this album are the instrumentation and melody lines.

Lyrically, she still conveys love and a positive self-image through a causal, usually grammatically-incorrect tongue. Despite the hint of vulnerability in her love-tinged tracks (such as "I Won't Let You Down" and top-notch power ballad "Kindly Calm Me Down"), Trainor is nothing if not confident; even if you are a victim of low self-esteem or drought in sexual activity due to her vile music, you have to acknowledge that, at the very least. While our Meghan does tip-toe the line of confidence and arrogance in the first half of this record and crosses the line of immaturity more often than not, she conveys herself as should be expected: as a young woman whose dream of living the glamorous pop star life has just come true.

She tells her listeners, "If I was you, I would want to be me, too" over a beat not unlike that of will.i.am and Britney Spears' "Scream and Shout" on "Me Too." (Because all roads lead back to Beyoncé, I must note that "Me Too" contains the most inflated lyrics of the album -- lyrics that, if sang by someone like the Queen B, would be deemed "fierce" and plastered on Twitter biographies and tee shirts worldwide. But because she's the MTrain, the lyrics equate to shallow egocentrism in the court of public opinion. Weird how these things work, eh?) Oh, and don't forget that ditty titled "I Love Me." No, it's not a witty double entendre à la Hailee Steinfeld's "Love Myself." She just loves herself. A bit self-centered? Maybe. But aren't we all?

Her brand of feminism, blatantly flaunted on only one track, is one less boasted. No, it's not the "fierce force of nature" kind that Yoncé boasts, and no, it's not the "unshaven armpits" kind that most uneducated folks envision when they encounter self-proclaimed feminists. Instead, she simply revels in the ideal image of a girly girl: the make-up, the hair, the clothes, the emotions. In a time when make-up and fancy hairstyles are considered superficial (or even worse: "false advertising"), Trainor touts it all. Crafted with a hook harking back to the verses of Ashlee Simpson's "L.O.V.E.," "Woman Up" celebrates the red lipstick and the high heels for all of the independent ladies out there.

"Champagne Problems," a dense dance track like none other in her discography, closes this album on a very fitting afterthought, reaffirming the lightheartedness of Trainor's craft. In the immortal words of Kourtney Kardashian, "there's people that are dying," and the closing tracks proves that Trainor knows this album doesn't address concerns of that magnitude. By no means has she reinvented the wheel (I mean, the woman ever so proudly rhymes fake word "besteses" with the even more fake word "breasteses" without the bat of an eye), but she does boast a catchy sophomore album and a large dose of personality. And that's all she signed up to do.

If you're a straight male and/or over the age of, say, 15 years and don't get the hype that has helped Trainor sell over one million records here in the States alone, don't worry. Much like how that new Beyoncé album isn't tailor-made for Piers Morgan (I promise this is the last Bey reference, mainly because this is the last paragraph; I told you that all roads lead to her), Meghan Trainor's doesn't target you. There's a good chance you already set up your tent in Camp Anti-Trainor a long while ago, anyway. The album is cutesy. It's immature. It's lighthearted. It's everything you don't want, so pay it no mind. Those of us who enjoy puppies and rainbows, however, will find a little carefree enjoyment in it.

Thank You will be released on May 13, 2015 under Epic Records. Standard, deluxe, and Target-exclusive versions will be available.

2 comments:

  1. Nice review, as always. I like how you set up the argument for defending her, she gets ridiculed in the media, way past what would be deemed considered her "fair share".

    On another note, didn't Nick Jonas also release a song titled Champagne Problems recently? Is that a common song title?

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    1. Thanks! I agree, she gets heckled a lot more than she should. I smell a critical disaster for this album in regards to professional critics, so I figured I'd better put my all into this.

      Yes, Nick Jonas just released a song (also a pretty dance-y synthpop track) of the same name. I think it's just a coincidence that they both released songs of the same title; it's a pretty common phrase to denote petty (some may say 'first world') problems.

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