The tube strike last night was the perfect opportunity to acquaint myself with Meghan Trainor’s back catalogue. The walk from Piccadilly to Paddington (the buses were just too full) gave me plenty of time to enjoy both her number one hits and her lesser known numbers. There’s many an inspiring message in Trainor’s songs but the more I listened the more I began to realise that the messages were really rather mixed.
You may know Meghan Trainor from her number hit All About That Bass – a lively piece that contests the mainstream’s obsession with slim woman and instead celebrates a diversity of body shapes. “I see the magazines working that Photoshop,” sings Trainor, “We know that shit ain’t real, come on now, make it stop. If you got beauty booty just raise ’em up, ’cause every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” This is an inspiring message about celebrating one’s big behind (mine is not inconsiderable in size) until it becomes clear that the point of one’s body is to attract the opposite sex. “My momma told me don’t worry about your size, she says, boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” So it’s not about embracing your body, whatever size it is, it is about trying to find a man. To make it worse Trainor then calls out slimmer women for being “skinny bitches” but quickly covers it up by saying she’s joking. So it certainly is a jumble of mixed messages as it both subverts and conforms to the media it challenges.
Dear Future Husband deserves a whole blog post of its own but for now I’ll just focus on the highlights. On the one hand she calls out her future husband for expecting her to stay at home and cook because, like him, she has a 9 to 5 job. This is great, equality in employment for men and women (of course, this is not to shame women who don’t have jobs and who do enjoy cooking). Then she sings a little about sex: “I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed, open doors for me and you might get some…kisses. Don’t have a dirty mind, just be a classy guy, buy me a ring, buy, buy me a ring.” This is somewhat more problematic as she asks her potential partner not to have a dirty mind immediately after leading him on to believe she was going to sing about follatio: she’s set him up for a fall there. Meanwhile, the request for a ring falls somewhere between a demand and a plea – if people happily consent to marriage then that’s fine by me but it seems as if Trainor seeks matrimony for matrimony’s sake and perhaps to fill a hole in her life, arguably not the best reasons to get hitched. But this is understandable given the pressure young people are put under to find the ‘right mate’ and the way love is presented to us in terrible Hollywood movies. But there’s still a while to go before pop successfully challenges this propaganda.
Somewhat more explicitly in Title she tells her future boyfriend to “treat me like a trophy, put me on the shelf” – so here she is demanding to be objectified. This, I’m sure, would be fine in some sort of consenting sex game but here it does just seem that Trainor craves the validation of men and actively encourages them to reduce her to inanimate object status. This is not a good message to be spreading. Close Your Eyes is a nice song in which she eschews trying to fit in and look good even though she recognises that “everybody wants to be cool, yes they do, and I’m just like them.” Here, Trainor highlights the very mixed messages themselves that pepper her lyrics.
Perhaps, the most bleak of Trainor’s messages comes in her song Never Ever, a ballad about getting over dumb guys and embracing being single. “Never ever ever will I need someone, never ever do I rely on one, ‘cause I’m all grown, I’m all grown, and I’m okay on my own, okay on my own…Well you can try, to say that I am co-dependent, but I depend on me, yes me and only me.” The sentiment is clear and the desire to be independent strong but I worry that these lyrics could only have arisen in an isolated, consumer society such as our own in which the very existence of society has been denied (thanks Margaret Thatcher) and atomisation and isolation are on the rise. As community and social cohesion suffer so we try desperately to find meaning in relationships, normally with just one other person, and this often results in too much stress and expectation being put on a partnernship. It seems that community oriented co-dependence (or perhaps inter-dependence) is off the cards and we may well end up being forced to rely purely on ourselves. Perhaps Trainor’s lyrics are a grim prophecy of things to come and she is a modern day oracle. Perhaps.
Now, enjoy this post modern reworking of a Meghan Trainor classic…