With each track on her album Title, Meghan Trainor isolates more and more listeners. She was the principal writer on the album and it was completed before her 21st birthday. Fresh out of high school but not your average college student, Trainor wrote songs that aren’t age-appropriate for young teenagers but are too elementary for people her own age; she has cornered herself into such a specific sect that it’s unlikely she’ll obtain and secure a demographic for an extended period of time. She broke into the industry believing that she is the ultimate everygirl—bigger than a size four, calling ex-boyfriends when she’s drunk and lonely, and battling the resulting hangovers—but damning girls who do not relate to her, who are more abundant than she realizes.
Take track 8, “Walkashame,” as exhibit A. On this track, Trainor assumes she knows her audience: “Don’t act like you haven’t been there, 7 AM with the bed head, everyone knows it’s the walk of shame.” Her presumption is just rude enough to exclude any listeners who, in fact, have not been there—and there are many, because average high schoolers aren’t able to do the post-one-night stand walk of shame, because they’re kids who live with their parents. And Trainor isn’t far from that stage either—how many walks of shame could she have possibly done in her life after graduating high school but before writing this song, minus the time she spent on the road, touring? Trainor had to have been working on these tracks when she was 17 and 18 years old, which doesn’t match the stories she’s telling about expected, routine drunken one-night stands. It is possible that these are true stories, but it's unlikely; she’s writing her own songs but they aren’t believable, making her efforts in vain.
“All About That Bass” was the album’s first single and biggest hit. It’s a so-called “body anthem” –a noble cause that was mostly discredited last fall when Trainor ignorantly told ET that she wasn’t “strong” enough to have anorexia. The song is half awesome and half damaging (“every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top,” vs. “don’t worry about your size…boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” respectively). In fact, this is a fair representation of the entire album. It’s a backhanded compliment; lifting up spirits then crushing them in a way that leaves heads tilted, wondering if she’s a concerned friend or a total monster. Meghan Trainor is the coworker who goes, “Are you feeling okay? You look really tired today.”
If there are mothers who bought Title for their teenage daughters after just glancing over its first single without much thought, they must have been surprised when they drove with their daughters in their passenger seats and heard lines as stark as, “You might never get a chance to see me naked in your bed,” “I can shake it, shake it, like I’m supposed to do,” “I taught him everything, now he can last for hours,” “I got that boom boom that all the boys chase,” “I’m kinda tipsy, I ain’t tryna sleep alone,” “3 AM, I might be looking for a late night friend,” “Never stares at other boobies,” “This always happens when I’m wasted,” plus a not-so-hidden reference to giving head, especially upon realizing how young Meghan Trainor actually is. There is nothing morally or inherently wrong with her saying these things, but she is just brazen enough to deter a young target audience that she could so easily obtain. So it must be concluded that Trainor aims for an audience of women around ages 20, 21, and 22, because it isn't her responsibility to preach abstinence and prudence to the next generation if those aren't her values. But any self-respecting woman over the age of 18 would be repulsed by the third track on the album, “Dear Future Husband.” The single is a major step backward for women in the music industry and therefore any women listening to music. In “Dear Future Husband," Trainor spews sexist stereotypes and should-be-archaic gender roles interspersed with one or two lines that cover up her rampant degradation. The only redeemable part of the song is when she says, “You got that 9 to 5, but baby so do I, so don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies. I never learned to cook, but I can write a hook.” The rest of the song describes a needy, subservient, unreasonable, and controlling woman who is looking for a man who ignores the fact that she treats him like shit, because that’s just how she, as a wife, is allowed to act. She's a less glamorous version the character that Taylor Swift satirizes in "Blank Space." Trainor says, “I’ll be the perfect wife, buying groceries, buying what you need,” implying that fulfilling this traditional responsibility makes a “perfect” wife. In the line, “even when I’m acting crazy,” she is again referencing a tired stereotype about women being irrational and overly emotional. Trainor plans to avoid compromise, difficult discussions, or growth in her marriage, stating, “After every fight, just apologize…even if I was wrong, you know I’m never wrong, why disagree?” Hopefully before she actually gets married, Trainor will learn why it is essential for every human being to disagree with other human beings at times. In exchange for her husband’s good behavior, she will offer him sex. When he does nothing wrong but apologizes anyway, she says, "I'll let you try and rock my body right.” She expects her husband to be easily manipulated by her body; she assumes he will do anything if he in turn gets to sleep with her. If he simply opens doors for her, she’ll repay him accordingly—she blatantly interrupts her rhyme scheme, “I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed, open doors for me and you might get some...kisses,” letting everyone know what she’s offering without having the nerve to actually say it.
From a feminist perspective, Trainor has every right to say what she expects to get out of her marriage—it is her right as a woman to want what she wants and sing about it, even if no one else does. But when she cites such universal, notorious stereotypes for women, she is no longer talking about her own unique desires, and instead is promoting the roles that men have been enforcing upon women for generations. When she describes a "crazy" but "perfect" wife who uses her body to win over her sex-obsessed husband, it is disrespectful to the women who came before her—the women who fought for years so that she would have the right to have her writing played on the radio in the first place.
In the song's music video, Trainor is pictured scrubbing her kitchen floors in a dress while suitors line up at her door to woo her. The set is a fun and appealing facade and an especially youthful one for a song that young girls shouldn’t listen to. In the video, she rejects several men before finding the right one. One guy "fails" her test because he isn't physically strong enough. If that's not an outdated gender stereotype then what is? As she preaches about the acceptance of women’s plus size bodies and the damning of superficiality, she practices the exact opposite for men.
Title is not a poorly made album by definition, and it’s easy to hear why it has sold so well. Trainor can certainly sing and write, and about things that are not often written about, but her retro hooks often sound forged—they’re easy to see through when analyzed in relation to her career and age. Kevin Kadish produced most of the album and his work is impeccable; the tracks are catchy as can be, especially if listeners are able to ignore the lyrics and instead focus solely on the doo-wop. Songs like “Bang Dem Sticks” and “Lips Are Moving” are worth listening to, but it’s difficult to acknowledge any merit on an album with such backwards ideas about women. And it’s difficult to imagine that a woman who is neither a masochist nor a fool could listen to all of Title without becoming enraged. Its subject matter isn’t relatable for young teenagers, but it’s too false and contradicting for anyone older, so her target audience is a mystery and therefore not sustainable. Title is an album with success that probably won’t be matched again by Trainor if she continues her current songwriting process. Maybe I'm wrong, and teenage girls aren't looking to her for a role model—maybe a bunch of chauvinistic men are buying her albums and will continue to do so. And time will tell: Meghan Trainor confirmed that her next album, Thank You, is almost finished, and is due out later this year.
Music, feelings, and a little bit of feminism.
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