Meghan Trainor – An Advocate For Social Change

After adding some extra bass to the music industry for the better part of 2014, everyone got a taste of Meghan Trainor’s 1950s-infused aesthetic. While I found myself unapologetically rocking out to her pick-me-up tunes, others voiced their deep seeded annoyance with the 22-year-old breakout star.

In all honesty, “All About That Bass” was force-fed through the radio so much that even I, admittedly a Trainor fan, started getting irked by the sound of her voice. With that being said, I’ve always been perplexed with people’s strong opinions regarding Trainor’s motives.

As with any mainstream pop singer, there’s a contingent of die-hard fans that’ll defend Trainor’s every move, along with another cohort of people who loathe her artistic decisions.

Typically, performers have to differentiate themselves in the entertainment industry, whether that means taking off some clothes, donning a cotton candy-colored hair-do or hopping behind a controversial, contemporary movement. The industry is a world as money-focused as any other – it’s all about marketing oneself in the name of a pretty paycheck.

As I see it, the constant backlash Trainor faces is rooted in her disinterest with fitting an industry norm of producing sexual objectification-positive music and nothing more. She’s pushing for a change in societal perspectives and, unfortunately, that entails a degree of professional risk-taking.  Further, taking a professional risk in hopes of sparking cultural conversation gives way to a whole lot of misinterpretation.

Looking at her arguably most-discussed singles alone illuminates the agenda Trainor stands behind—one focused on combatting body shaming, encouraging feminist outlooks and increasing public understanding of consent. While we can debate the effectiveness of her lyricism, Trainor deserves a level of acclaim for her advocacy in speaking up for marginalized individuals.  And that’s something we rarely see in our detrimentally passive society.

“All About That Bass” has been continuously slammed for “skinny shaming” because of its encouragement of curvy women’s body positivity, leaving out extensive mention of naturally small-framed women.  In reality, though, it’s worth focusing on the words spoken, rather than those left unsaid. Trainor’s lyrics speak to the narrative she knows as a full-figured woman and, while she might not mention the explicit, pained experiences of some petite women, she’s telling her own story. And aren’t we all entitled to that?

Much of the track’s controversy is found in the line “I’m bringing booty back/Go ‘head and tell them skinny bitches that,” but the close proximity of this line to Trainor’s mention of the Photoshop phenomenon shows the true intent behind these blunt words.

As I see it, Trainor is encouraging women, big or small, to embrace their unorthodox visual attributes; and as far as her mentioning of “skinny bitches” goes, I think Trainor’s referencing the unrealistic, Photoshop-heavy images of women we’re fed from day-to-day.  In essence, she’s not referring to small-framed women as “skinny bitches,” but rather the falsified, manipulated images typical of fashion and beauty magazines – which have somehow become the accepted standard for women’s beauty.

In short: “All About That Bass” is a social commentary on a society comfortably promoting unnatural, and often unobtainable, beauty expectations – not a simplistic pop song close-mindedly advocating for an isolated group.

As if “All About That Bass” didn’t stir the controversy pot enough, the 2015 release of “Dear Future Husband” dubbed Trainor unwarrantedly fickle and sexist—a notion I find unfair.

Playing off of female stereotypes, Trainor assures her unknown lover that she’ll conform to his wants when he defies male stereotypes of disrespect and aggression. Throughout the track, Trainor tells her man she’ll only be seen buying groceries if her lover, in turn, shows his love – whether manifested in flowers and dates or heartfelt apologies. It’s a sarcastic approach that she takes in “Dear Future Husband,” but an important one nonetheless.

Trainor isn’t aiming to exclude righteous, well-intentioned men from her commentary, but she is aiming to put the spotlight on enablers of female objectification. As an advocate of social change, she seems to view combatting offenders as more proactive than praising men already behind the feminist movement.

Having a 14-year-old sister, Trainor’s message feels nothing short of important.  In a society bleeding sexual objectification, from toddlers wearing tiaras to provocative, underage models plastered across highway billboards, women have too often become the target of men’s sexual conquests.  Sadly, for some women, sexual objectification has become an assumed, daily norm. “Dear Future Husband” questions that frighteningly accepted reality and that says standards aren’t picky – they’re paramount.

“No,” indicative of a ’90s Britney track, speaks of the power of consent and the two-letter word “no,” as Trainor sings, “My name is NO/My sign is NO/My number is NO/You need to let it go.”  Here, Trainor’s using common pick-up lines, often considered chivalrous, as the basis for sharing her viewpoint on consent.  Her perspective: Women don’t have to answer the questions of men with faulty motives.  In other words, she’s saying women aren’t rude for ignoring these types of men – as nobody should be forced into unwanted catcalling or ill-intentioned flirting.

Again, Trainor is speaking on the need for heightened respect (specifically by men), this time focusing on the men who won’t be granted a first date, much less “husband” status.

To me, Meghan Trainor’s music is nothing short of underrated. It calls for the reconsideration of widely accepted, and unfair, cultural norms. She’s too-often labeled “dull,” because of her lack of visual controversy and unconformity.

However, her trademark is her lyricism, which pushes boundaries unapologetically, often calling for an in-depth, secondary look for full understanding. There are no simple take-aways from her music – a likely reason why some jump to such harsh conclusions about her lyrical implications.

Sure, she’s been acclaimed through her Billboard dominations, but I think Trainor’s deserving of a bit more – a place alongside other respected popular music artists rising above releasing stagnant, lowbrow pop music.

Liam McGurl

 

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