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Joseph Kaminski

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February 22, 2019

The Meghan Trainor Controversy

Meghan Trainor made national headlines after her controversial music video All About That Bass became a viral sensation. The song managed to reach number one in fifty-eight different countries and became one of the best-selling singles of all time, with around 11 million units sold as of December 2014. Just so you have an idea as of where this single sits, it rests comfortably between Katy Perry’s “Firework” and the forever-stuck-in-parents head “Let it Go” from Frozen.

But, as stated, her breakthrough to fame is also the first of a string of hypocrisies and controversy that make up her musical career. So, on a sociological sense, the bubblegum pop sensation and hypocritical voice for body positivity has some explaining to do for more than one of her songs. From her lyrics to her choreography, Meghan Trainor has made rather vocal enemies on both sides of the social chart.

Feminists despise her for her sexist ‘subliminal messages’ in her music video for Dear Future Husband, which has some rather hypocritical music lyrics to go along with it. Most of the ‘skinny bitches’ that Trainor has dissed in her song All About That Bass have vocalized their strong opinions against the ‘UK sized 8-10’ singer who has claimed to be a positive role model for all girls. Fans have even voiced their concerns for possible plagiarism in her song Title. But, in recent months, she might be trying to run away from what got her to fame with her latest song No.

But, before I begin, let me explain I understand the direction that Meghan Trainor is attempting to take. She has an idea, but she tends to shadow it with hypocrisy and contradicting messages. As we’re seeing now, it seems as if Meghan Trainor has evolved her style (alongside her idea) from the bubblegum fifties music with some awkward, contradicting rhymes to a more modern, darker theme that’s on the right track for an anthem for young girls to look up to as they sing along. I’m not too cultured when it comes to pop music, so these are just my thoughts.

Marginalizing the Mini: All About That Bass

Strike one for Meghan Trainor, right off the bat. Unlike many critics that bash this song completely, I can admit this song has deep roots with good intentions. There aren’t many songs that relate to plus-sized and/or curvy women in society, as we’ve drifted into an awkward “size 0 is the new sexy” attitude that has history rolling in its grave.

Yes, I’m one of those who have a true hatred for modern day magazine covers for setting sociological standards way too high and impossible for both men and women in terms of looks. In a capitalistic environment, people make advertisements based on what will sell. And, thanks to the psychology behind symmetry and tons of money poured into Photoshop, the corporations in charge of photo shoots have discovered the techniques to get magazine covers flying off the shelves.

However, All About That Bass could have easily been about body-positivity for everyone. For a song that was mandated to be a song about loving yourself for who you are, the messages provided within the song’s lyrics and dreadfully organized, Target advertisement of a music video can be seen as potentially degrading and harmful to females who do not have the certain “curves” that Meghan Trainor sports herself.

Rather than bashing women who have body types that naturally happen to be a size two, Meghan Trainor’s song could have easily changed itself to be a positive anthem for women of all sizes.

In between the positive, “embrace yourself” messages for women of her body type, she comments rather harshly about women who don’t happen to fall into the category of her apparent target audience.

The phrase “so go ahead and tell them skinny bitches at” is one of the most appalling examples of verbal insults within a song that claims to be about positivity and loving yourself. If someone’s thin, they’re a bitch? If someone’s skinny, they’re oppressors to you and who you are?

If this same song was released with the word “skinny” replaced with “fat”, the song would be slammed for fat-shaming and Meghan Trainor would be the headline of musical bullying. People like Meghan Trainor and her fans — who call themselves MegaTrons for some weird reason — would riot over a song that has the reversed intentions of All About That Bass. With that in mind, why do they wonder why the so-called ‘skinny bitches’ seem to have a problem with it the way it is?

The song continues with a bit of an objectifying twist, claiming that her own mother told her not to worry about her size because, and quote, “boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” This immediately implies that shapely women are more attractive that the aforementioned ‘skinny bitches’.

Not only this, it leaves a poor taste in just about everyone’s mouth. How can a woman’s happiness and imagery of self-worth be based simply on their attractiveness to males? What if a so-called curvy woman happened to be lesbian? What if they so happen to be straight but without curves? What would young women feel about themselves if they hear these lyrics?

Sexism in the Song: Dear Future Husband

Strike two for Meghan Trainor. Dear Future Husband has sparked complete controversy over the sexism that is present in the music video.

Once again, I see how the song had its intentions rooted in good. It gives an empowering message to women, informing generations to come that they aren’t limited to a traditional format of marriage and have the ability to choose who they wish to marry. But, once again, Meghan takes everything just a little too far, bringing up a problem within the sociology behind her song.

Dear Future Husband is incredibly similar to her big hit All About That Bass in terms of its cultural aspects. An upbeat and incredibly catchy tone with lyrics that fall sub-par in terms of the positivity that she wishes to give to her fan base.

Of course, there’s the whack-job conspiracy theorists that think this makes it easier to embed itself into the minds of young girls; but check your tinfoil hats, please. A catchy song with the same bubblegum, pastel flash of colors, Dear Future Husband is just a cluster of poor phrasing and an overall stereotypical aspects of what marriage “should be”. 

“Take me on a date. I deserve it, babe. And don’t forget the flowers every anniversary” 

Alright, so men will spoil women just because it’s their job. This is a pretty stereotypical notion of what women deserve out of a relationship, and a rather traditional mindset at that. Pretty ironic right off the bat of the song, as it has this confusing notion of going against the traditional mindset of relationships while implying the traditional mindset within both the lyrics and the music video.

Feminism is not the concept that women are better than men or deserve more than men. The concept of feminism and going against this traditional method of dating and marriage is that both members of the relationship are equal. So, why would you give the opinion that women should just insist on getting gifts if they want an equal marriage with their so-called perfect husband?

“’Cause if you’ll treat me right, I’ll be the perfect wife. Buying groceries, Buying what you need”

The perfect wife apparently is tasked with the job to buy the groceries and do all the shopping. This is a rather traditional mindset as well for an “enlightening and empowering” musician that tries to showcase positivity and happiness in the majority of her songs.

The concept that if a husband “treats” his wife “right”, she’ll go and buy the groceries for him is a god-damned 1950’s mechanic for how the New Right views the family, not how you think you’re trying to view it. A rather sexist, stereotypical, and anti-feministic song to showcase off in an attempt to “empower” young women listening to you as a role model.

Again, I get it. She’s saying that her “perfect man” can only get these “womanly duties” from her if he deserves it. But, again, she’s shrouding her initial message and idea with a contradicting and rather confusing concept.

“So don’t be thinking I’ll be home and baking apple pies. I never learned to cook,”

Okay; this somewhat inspiring message against traditionalist rolls within the family unit is an easy win for true feminists listening to this song.

But, if Meghan Trainor won’t be home and baking apple pies, why is 85% of the music video her at her retro home cooking and cleaning for her perfect man? The video seems to mostly take place in a kitchen environment. There’s no chance this is one of those “it’s supposed to be ironic” moments, either. 

Yes, it could be hypocritical. The fifties-music mixed with the imagery of what she’s disavowing could be her taking on the stereotypical roles in her own way. Plus, the artist never has a real say in her music videos — that’s up to the director. But overall? Her lyrics are still hypocritical and questioning throughout it all.

All this part of the song does is enforce strict gender roles. Cooking, cleaning, and denying a man who actually knows how to cook — as shown with the first “escort” of hers.

Literally; watch the music video. While she claims she’s trying to “empower” women with her music, it’s kind of hard for her to do that while she’s on her knees scrubbing floors with suds and setting apple pies on fire with massive and copious amounts of sugar.

“Even when I’m acting crazy, tell me everything’s alright”

So women are bat-shit crazy, right? Oh yes, the anthem for telling women that even when they’re in a bad mood they’ll get the love and respect they deserve from their perfect man. Could you imagine the backlash if this song reversed the rolls, with the woman loving the husband despite him screaming at her and being incredibly moody? We’d be holding trial for Meghan Trainor by noon.

Yes, yes. Everyone has their so-called ‘crazy moments’, but why would anyone write a song agreeing with a stereotype that women have been fighting against for generations? She’s openly “empowering” women who look up to her as a role model to think it’s more than okay to be quote-unquote crazy!

“If you wanna get that special loving, tell me I’m beautiful each and every night”

You hear that, douche-bags at the club? Tell the women that they’re pretty and you’ll get some. That’s the message Meghan Trainor is basically sending here. It’s basically saying as long as a man says a woman is beautiful, they deserve to have sex with them. And that’s okay how? 

“After every fight, just apologize and maybe then I’ll let you try and rock my body right”

Okay, there are two ways to hear this lyrical line.

The first way of hearing this quote is pretty radical in terms of feminism, which remains ironic since the song itself has already proven itself to be focused on a sexist and more traditional format of relationships. Whenever there’s an argument, just say the woman is right in the end? It doesn’t even matter if the woman is wrong? No one is ever always right, not the male or the female, in an argument.

The second way of hearing this quote is back to the sexist format seen present throughout the song. Even if the woman is right and the man has no clue what he did was wrong, he can just emptily say “I am sorry” to get sex afterwards? That’s a pretty pathetic way of saying “if he’s nice to you, even if it’s fake, give him what he wants”.

“I’ll be sleeping on the left side of the bed. Open doors for me and you might get some… kisses”

Can I stop discussing the lyrics here? Like, seriously. A purposeful pause to make the listener of the song think she’s about to say “head”, a slang term for oral sex. Alright, a guy just held a door open for you — a proper and polite thing to do! — you owe them a blowjob! And they say chivalry is dead!

Yeah, this song had the potential to be a great song with an urging message. No, it didn’t turn out that way at all.

Plagiaristic Patterns: Title

Strike three for Meghan Trainor. Once again, a running theme here, I can see how the song has its roots firmly held in a good idea. It’s an understandable song, with sentiment going out to just about anyone who’s been in a casual relationship. Unfortunately (like the rest of her songs), Title — presumably the title of “girlfriend” — is full of problems.

For one, objectivity.

Many of the song’s lyrics objectify women in many different ways. From using sex as a way to get whatever you want as an “empowered” woman (“you might never get a chance to see me naked in your bed”) to acting as if women should enjoy being the background characters in terrible rap videos (“you gotta show me off”) to literally, explicitly claiming girls should want to be objectified (“treat me like a trophy” and “put me on the shelf”), the song literally oozes with the objectification of women.

The song is literally nothing more than a woman warning (or maybe pleading) for a committed relationship, perpetuating retrograded beliefs that relationships need to be like. Again, it does have good intentions — perhaps encouraging women to flee from a relationship if they’re not getting anything out of it.

But, even if we somehow find a way make up for the objectification, the song has something more problematic than its meaning. It has a legal problem: plagiarism.

For those of you who are on the same level as me with pop music, Olly Murs released a song called “Dance with Me Tonight” in 2011. Go ahead and listen to it; it’s essentially the same beat as Meghan Trainor’s Title, which was released in 2015. Of course, they’re both going for that 1950’s style of beat, and there are always plagiarism and drama when it comes to copyright in the musical industry.

Departure from Drama: No

Now, hold on a second. It seems as if Meghan Trainor has grown up in the sense of where the Hell her music is going? Has her idea actually started moving along with her own sense of what her music should be like? How can you go from the cutesy bubblegum artist who doesn’t show skin to a fishnet-wearing, leather obsessive cultural icon with choreography from a low-budget porn movie?

From the first few seconds, it almost seems as if Meghan Trainor is about to go through another 50s style pop song, much similar to the three I’ve shown you within this post. It’s a metaphor — within the first few seconds of No, her old style has died. Her old style has been killed by her new track.

For a mere moment, lets ignore the fact that the lyrics of this song contradict her past messages of “empowerment”. She’s no longer asking boys to call her beautiful, like she did in Dear Future Husband and Title. Instead, she’s sarcastically calling this act “original”, seeming uninterested in her original context. Her message has evolved with the concept of her new style.

No more pink and blue pastel with retro props and blonde hair. We’re seeing black leather and fishnets, making her newest video the sexiest episode of Deadliest Catch anyone has ever seen (and yes, I stole that joke from Music Video Sins. If Meghan Trainor can steal a beat, I can steal a joke).

But, as we’re seeing from many of her past critics, the musical direction and style we see within No is a departure from her previous albums — perhaps even a departure from the drama that she has had circling around her musical career since it skyrocketed back in 2014.

The song basically does what Meghan Trainor has been wanting to do since what seems like day one: it empowers women. It empowers women to just say no to guys that are trying to hit on them. It’s a, comparative to most pop culture, relatively good song that’s still as catchy as her previous styles!

Of course, we can argue with the whole logic of that problem another day. I’m sure someone out there is saying “why should we empower women to say no when we can empower men not to sexually harass and hit on women in public?!”.

Perhaps No is the anthem that she’s been looking for. Yeah, sure, there’s some problems with it. Some lyrics still border that line of hypocrisy and contradiction. Yes, the music video is slightly confusing towards her lyrics, but that — again — isn’t up to her. That’s the director’s call.

I believe Meghan Trainor is finally starting to have her idea — which has been shrouded with confusing contradictions for far too long now — come to fruition as she changes her style of music. Her new track is the closest to what I believe to be her message — her idea.

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