Meghan Trainor’s all about self-love on her new album Thank You, the followup to last year’s Title which featured her career-making hit “All About That Bass.” Though Title was a cohesive album filled with girl power, confidence, and — yes — self-love, Thank You delivers a noticeably fresh, modern, and forward side of Trainor that Title couldn’t convey. This time, more people are listening.
By December 2014, radio listeners either loved or hated Meghan Trainor. “All About That Bass” had consumed radio stations since June and continued receiving major air time even after “Lips Are Movin'” hit stations in October. Understandably, the track grew old and felt over-played to many. Doo-wop heavy tracks remained prominent in Title, solidifying the idea that this was Trainor’s preferred style and would stay her shtick for years to come. “Bass” lovers are still rocking the album a year later. “Bass” haters never listened because they already knew what to expect.
When “No” premiered shortly after Trainor won her first Grammy, the role model’s return lacked the doo-wops and sweetness that listeners were familiar with. Instead, the 90’s influenced track took Trainor’s confidence up a notch, from kindly confident to nearly cocky. To some, the change was a hard left turn, but the transition for Thank You proves the singer has staying power and guarantees she won’t be remembered as a one-hit wonder.
The album opener, “Watch Me Do,” summarizes the tone of the album and emphasizes Trainor’s no-bullshit attitude with quips like “I’ve been on a low-hater diet.” The chorus demands the listener to watch Meghan Trainor on her path to success, which is exactly what the world will be doing this year.
On “Me Too,” the 22-year-old blends modern EDM with Bruno Mars-esque funk beats. “I can’t help loving myself, and I don’t need nobody else,” she sings on the track. Another killer track, “I Love Me” featuring Lunchmoney Lewis, continues Trainor’s confidence-boosting lyrics and sounds like the sister track of Pharrell’s “Happy.” Compared to “Me Too,” “I Love Me” has an underlying gospel quality and would be an appropriate sing-along at a party or church.
As promised, Trainor leaves the 60’s vibes in the beginning of the album to explore more modern tracks, like title track “Thank You” featuring R. City. “Thank You” is fit for today’s radio but with a unique tropical twist pulled from Trainor’s pre-fame roots. Surprisingly, most reviews of the album fail to mention this one, instead mentioning more debatable tracks like “Woman Up” and “Better.”
“Woman Up” is a single girl’s power anthem that would be a hit for a group like Fifth Harmony. Despite an epic production and catchy lyrics, “Woman Up” feels out of place in its spot on the album, and the words “woman up” sound more like “warm it up.” This problem persists with “Better” featuring Yo Gotti, a Caribbean-laced rap track that continues to demonstrate Trainor’s flexibility in style but doesn’t contribute to her image and simply shouldn’t be on Thank You. It’s not the worst track on the album, but the fact that the repetitive line “I deserve better” is easier heard as “I serve better” is just one more reason this song should have been scrapped.
Luckily for Trainor, these much talked about tracks don’t make-or-break her efforts to record less outdated music. “I Won’t Let You Down,” “Dance Like Your Daddy,” and “Champagne Problems” are upbeat, radio-friendly hits that keep the album moving without saying much about Trainor herself. Without personal substance, these tracks could easily appear on an early Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, or other Disney kid’s album.
The most substantial track on the album is a heartbreaking piano ballad that deserves as much attention as “All About That Bass” had. The song is called “Kindly Calm Me Down,” and the lyrics take listeners through a relatable struggle: needing someone to keep you sane, but not knowing if they’ll be there. “Kindly” expertly blends the singer’s soft side with a melody and production familiar to radio listeners, while also showcasing Trainor’s more serious songwriting abilities.
So cold, alone / Could you be my blanket? / Surround my bones / when my heart feels naked. / No strength, too weak / I could use some saving / and your love’s so strong / like a pill, I’d take it.
“Hopeless Romantic” and “Just A Friend To You,” the only two acoustic tracks on the album, also highlight Trainor’s soft side. “Friends don’t do the things we do / Everybody knows you love me, too,” she sings on “Just A Friend To You.” These songs were written by someone who feels hopelessly in love, not someone who’s so cool being single that she tells guys her name is “No.”
Like her genre-bending style, there are many sides to the artist behind the music, and Thank You is a successful start at relaying that message. Considering Trainor has written pop smashes for Fifth Harmony (“Sledgehammer”) and Jennifer Lopez (“Ain’t Your Mama”), was trained by members of cult rock band NRBQ, and played in her school’s jazz band, there was never any reason to doubt she could pull off a sound other than doo-wop. But no one really knows about her experiences before “All About That Bass” or that she’d already self-released three albums before fame.
We see some sides of Meghan Trainor in small doses, in music and in interviews, and audiences judge her based on their own perceptions of whichever side they see most. Is she a normal, hard-working girl who is proud of her success, or is Meghan Trainor a factory pop star trying too hard to win hearts and wallets?
That’s the question Thank You fails to answer and never intended to.
Before writing this review, I spoke with around 100 people — online and offline — about how they perceive Meghan Trainor. The answers varied dramatically. “I think she’s a bitch, and people like her shouldn’t make music,” one person said. When asked why she feels that way, she responded “Have you seen her interviews?” Others who perceived Trainor based on interviews either didn’t like her or believed that she is a great entertainer who deserves her success.
Based solely on music, responses were still mixed. For example, “I feel like she started out genuine but has become just another pop singer spitting out what people want,” wrote one Facebook user. This and similar comments are the exact opposite of responses from commenters who love Thank You but ignored Title. If Trainor’s goal is to give the people what they want, it seems to be working.
My research concluded that the general public simply doesn’t know who Meghan Trainor is as a person or whether her intentions are to be an artist or sell a product. In past decades, no one cared or gave two thoughts about the inner-workings of the music industry. Nowadays, stars like Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, and Rihanna are celebrated for turning away from dance tracks and focusing on more serious, even experimental material. Meghan continues to climb the ladder to their level with releases that are safe and expected. However, she does write her own music, which is more than can be said for the artists mentioned above.
Despite great writing, a few personal glimpses into her life, and a successful transition from doo-wop to new pop, Thank You still locks Trainor out of the most current trend in pop music: authenticity. Beyoncé is not reaching for the next “Single Ladies.” Lady Gaga spends time on the back of Bradley Cooper’s motorcycle, not chewing on a meat dress. Dance floor anthems and attention-grabbing tricks are not a recipe for total success like they were in 2008. With continued hard work, in-depth interviews, and maybe a little more space between album releases, there’s plenty of time for Meghan Trainor to continue developing her image and sound. The question now is: will the powers that be let her out of the box so early in her career, and, if so, is she interested in becoming a more serious artist?
Best tracks: Kindly Calm Me Down, Me Too, Thank You
Worst tracks: Dance Like Yo Daddy
Debatable: Better, Woman Up, FriendsNote: Populove is currently undergoing site maintenance following a hiatus. Some post images and comments from previous months may not appear as we work on the issue.