Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass

Are we fiends for a big dirty ass line?


Jonathan Bradley: The hook is a jingle, which makes sense, since the song is a pitch.

Anthony Easton: Ass shaking as a socio-political move, as an erotic refusal of bodily control, and as a good time on Saturday night should be encouraged, regardless of how and how the texts work out. These points are mostly for the message. 

Katherine St Asaph: If bass stands for ass, then what’s treble — boobs? Either Meghan Trainor is the one person in the universe standing up for flat-chested curvy women, or she didn’t think this metaphor through at all. It’s a shitty metaphor anyway — a song with no treble would be unlistenable — which makes sense, given that it was awkwardly grafted onto a title none of the songwriters knew what to do with. Trainor raps like she learned it from Luda’s verse for Justin Bieber; Kevin Kadish writes doo-wop like he learned it from Vanessa Carlton on the Counting Crows cover of “Big Yellow Taxi.” Trainor’s Miley Cyrus drawl — not the only similarity “Bass” shares with Cyrus, but I’m not going to talk about the video — is more interesting than her attempt to emulate hook-singing Fergie, but I wouldn’t want a whole album or even singles cycle of it. I can’t believe this is Top Ten; everything about it screams “minor Radio Disney hit that escaped somehow.” But unlike “Cool Kids” or “The Big Bang,” which escaped into nothing much besides a dutiful radio presence, “Bass” escaped into thinkpieceville, writers somehow finding ways they didn’t use up on Louie to chitter about yes feminist/no feminist and how fat and where fat and why fat. The websites all use the same unflattering screencap up top, a little too gleefully, and their commenters turn the bottom half of the Internet even more into burn books than usual. It’s exhausting, and it makes Trainor paradoxically ubiquitous as a cultural talking point yet a non-entity as a musician, which for an artist’s debut is deadly. In a world where “Rolling in the Deep” can become a smash with minimal cultural handwringing, why is this necessary? My guess is displaced rockism. Adele is seen as authentic enough that her music and career trajectory can be discussed on their own, but for a rising teenpop-adjacent artist like Trainor, the default assumption is that the music is nothing. Sad thing is, sometimes default assumptions are right.

Cédric Le Merrer: Obviously, when it comes to bass Meghan Trainor is all talk and no play. I really could complain that this is the kind of beat that would only ever inspire very mild shaking of the booty it’s supposed to “bring back.” But talk can have a great effect too, and like that time at the office party I had to go back on the floor I’d just left when “Can’t Hold Us” came on as I saw the only openly gay guy there having the time of his night dancing to Macklemore, I can’t completely diss a song that does what I’ve seen this one do for some friends IRL or on Tumblr. Pop’s what the public makes of it, and I rather like what it does of this one song.

Will Adams: Little good will come from someone like me — who’ll never feel the same burden of body policing as women do daily — shitting on a song that so gleefully promotes body positivity. Setting that aside, though, “All About That Bass” is among the most lackluster singles I’ve heard this year. The song is seemingly directed to multiple audiences (it’s mostly a clarion call to bigger women, but in the second verse Trainor tells a potential suitor to stay back if he’s looking for a size zero), Trainor is a limited vocalist (hear her struggle with the upper register melisma), and the trope of ersatz doo-wop was killed dead by Duffy well over five years ago.

Megan Harrington: I don’t need to explain how and why this song is dumb. If you really want to know why you shouldn’t listen to “All About That Bass,” here’s why: its closing 10 seconds are nearly identical to the opening 10 seconds of Sugar Ray’s “Fly.” A Gender and Women’s Studies class will teach you where Trainor failed rhetorically, but even if she dropped the appropriative shtick, her hit would still be deeply irritating. 

Brad Shoup: Her co-writer’s resume is a who’s-who of hyuk-hyuks; pouty doo-wop with a vernacular delivery is such a weird way to start a conversation, and I wonder at whose feet I can lay the blame. Trainor’s not got the surest pipes, so maybe this was the best framing, just as a song about bigger bodies is a genius way to redirect whatever nonsense would be subliminally (or not so) popping up in any articles her team could conjure. Now she’s got a full-stop hit; she’s swimming in ink. So yeah, “All About That Bass” is all about what dudes find attractive, and — like “Anaconda” — shits on the other half of a bullshit binary. Like any hit, though, it’s doing untold wondrous things.

Alfred Soto: If you want to deliver a message in song, be sure the beats work; otherwise I’m stuck listening to Lily Allen harmonizing with herself in a Aflac commercial shown on the Food Network. I mean, nothing happens in the last minute besides repeating the hook. Imagine if Aqua had released the superior “Barbie Girl” in the click bait era — how many words and headlines would it generate?

Elisabeth Sanders: When I first heard this it was a cute self-love novelty with a couple hundred thousand views, and now my high roommate is singing it to herself in the living room and I can literally hear her as I type this, so I feel like that speaks to how pervasive (and great) this tune is. It’s a pretty simple body-positive message, but simplicity isn’t bad. I’ve heard a couple people object to the phrase “skinny bitches”; for one thing, I really don’t think that is the worst thing in the world to say, because, sorry, but not all “body-shaming” is created equal, and for another, she literally says in the next line that she doesn’t really mean it, y’allllll. Anyway, this is a well-done doo-wop song that’s also a modern pop song, and it’s nice that someone other than Ariana Grande is trying to do semi-vintage pop in a lovely sort of sassy candyfloss way.

Patrick St. Michel: Oh, I get it, it’s like a ’60s girl group song but she says “booty” and “skinny bitches.” Meghan Trainor’s pushing a perfectly great message, and it beats reading a Tumblr post, but as an actual song this doesn’t do much beyond spreading its teachable moment. The doo-wop throwback might work if The Pipettes, Lucky Soul, countless K-pop groups and probably more hadn’t already done thrilling things with the style. This uses it as pleasant wallpaper that sounds like nothing else on the charts right now and allows Trainor to get her point across just fine — which is OK, if not particularly compelling (and treated as a bit of a joke). Positive ideas getting lots of attention are swell, but that doesn’t mean the world should just settle for carbon-paper renditions of the past. 

David Turner: I should’ve known this was going to be awful. I should’ve known from the title. But maybe it was going to be a dumb EDM song. M A Y B E. But nope. It’s an awful song that sounds like it was created by that group that does period accurate covers of pop songs–look it up. A 2010s pop song in the style of a 1950s pop song, isn’t that quaint. Of course not. It’s terrible and if there are any lyrics to this song my mind has yet to, and will not, consider them.

Josh Love: Works fine as a schoolyard singalong, but ironically there isn’t a whole lot of meat on this bone. A shame, because this would have been really terrific if it sounded like Big Freedia rather than a cutesy trifle. Perhaps, sadly, Trainor felt that in order to put across her body-positive message she needed to house it in a Trojan horse of sexless novelty pop, but her slangy slurring in the verses (“got that boom boom that all the boys chasin'”) suggests the song’s title might not be a total musical lie.

Jer Fairall: A more convincing body-positivity anthem than Nicki’s inexplicably overpraised “Anaconda” precisely because it is a more generous one: Trainor uses the Spectorian swing of 60s girl group pop as a means of encouragement, complete with advice from Mama passed on to her audience, while Nicki’s misuse of “Baby Got Back” negates any of the source’s goodwill by focusing “Anaconda” solely on herself. More good-in-comparison than actually good, the contrast between the two tracks (one the latest step in the pre-release campaign for a Blockbuster Album Event, the other already relegated to the status of YouTube novelty) is nevertheless instructive.

Madeleine Lee: The lyrics are Dove commercial feminism as written by someone in the “DOVE AND AXE ARE OWNED BY THE SAME COMPANY” phase, and it already sounds like its own acoustic YouTube cover. But it’s catchy and not too self-important to be fun — Trainor knows it’s really all about that hook — and I’m not averse to the idea of little girls dancing to this with their moms in the kitchen.

Reader average: [5.07] (27 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

48 Responses to “Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass”

  1. I still have a huge problem with the fact that the message of this song seems to be “my body type is the right body type because it’s what guys want”.

  2. and I know I’m getting thinkpiece-y, but if the message were any better I could focus more on what I find offputting with the music.

  3. I think treble is a pun on “trouble,” which is still stupid but I doubt it’s boobs. (also David you’re thinking of Postmodern Jukebox.)

  4. (sheepish) I totally made a dove/axe comment a few weeks ago

  5. I find this musically repellent and I can’t fully relate to its message, what with not being a woman under the particular body scrutiny women face. But while I see how it’s message is imperfect, I don’t get why “yes you can actually have this body type and some people will consider you attractive” is being treated as so deplorable, as if that’s not a reassurance that some women would like to be given.

  6. Well Katherine’s blurb was great.

  7. “that group that does period accurate covers of pop songs”


  8. This song is boring, but Maddie continues to write scenes of enjoying music that I wish I could partake in (see: “Pills N Potions”, “What I Want”)

  9. well, i certainly hope the screencap here isn’t unflattering

  10. “Ass shaking as a socio-political move”… can you please expand on this?

  11. sort of troubled that so many people here are taking “it’s ok to be fat because men will still want to fuck you” as a distinctly positive message

  12. are people under the impression that fat women don’t regularly experience sexual harassment or

  13. i think that it was fairly clear vsj, what do you need expanding on?

  14. i’d be a lot more willing to give this song leeway if it weren’t for her ridiculously annoying delivery; it comes off to me as three minutes of a white suburbia-native imitating ‘ghetto’ speech

  15. “She literally says in the next line that she doesn’t really mean it” is the logic that let J. Cole call us the *real* homophobes last year and I still haven’t gotten over it.

  16. That’s a pretty common thread in “white artists doing a genre pioneered by black artists and trying to capture a sense of ‘authenticity.'” There’s a Shangri-Las song that comes to mind here, but I forget the title. Or The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun,” anyone?

  17. lol kevin this is nothing like jcole bro

  18. I feel like this is the dumbest thing for me to take a stand on but I gotta say that the metaphor makes a *slight* bit more sense than Katherine’s giving it credit for — yes, bass stands for ass, but ass is also being used as synecdoche for an entire body type, meaning that treble doesn’t equal boobs, treble equals a “thinner” sound/body. It still doesn’t make sense in terms of how a song without treble would sound, though, and the hook is the least catchy part of the song anyway.

  19. Oh, I get it, it’s like a ’60s girl group song but she says “booty” and “skinny bitches.”

    I still haven’t listened to this – and can’t right now – but am experiencing a serious Phonograph Vol 2 – The Singles Club flashback from this description.

  20. this song is supergarbage

  21. as opposed to “Only Happy When It Rains,” which is Super Garbage

  22. sort of troubled that so many people here are taking “it’s ok to be fat because men will still want to fuck you” as a distinctly positive message

    I mean, it’s less a “distinctly positive” message than a blunt-positive one, given that:

    1) Most people want to be loved and desired; it’s as close to a universal human want that exists, just after, like, food and shelter.
    2) Many people want to be loved and desired in a romantic and/or sexual context, both for itself and for the societal benefits this confers.
    2) Barring special circumstances (fundamentalist Christianity, asexuality, political marriages, just plain settling, etc.), someone wanting to fuck you is a prerequisite for 2).

  23. That last should be 3) obviously. It isn’t the only prerequisite, but it is often one.

  24. This is totally of a piece with #feministsareugly and that Alyssa Rosenberg piece on how feminists who get called ugly harpies are defended online by their husbands. I guess the ’90s revival has extended to the whole “do-me feminism” ideal, only dressed up in more conservative garb?

    Also it sounds like garbage. P A S S

  25. everything about it screams “minor Radio Disney hit that escaped somehow.”

    katherine otm

  26. as someone so #blessed to have been both a size two and a size ten, guys just like to have sex (to generalize about my experiences with men). i don’t find “yes you can actually have this body type and some people will consider you attractive” a positive message because i don’t think guys wanting to have sex with me is an achievement. this song in particular is a flop because Trainor is absolutely not extending her affirmation to anyone outside the already well codified as desirable “cute chubby white girl” club. how about the girls who gain weight in their stomachs? how about black girls who have had their butts sexualized as obscene instead of inoffensively erotic (or however Trainor sees her own butt)? Trainor’s message isn’t actively awful or anything, but it’s very shallow.

  27. give us a score! let’s make this official!

  28. (this was directed at B. Nelson and Maura obvs)

  29. 2

  30. I mean, that’s cool that that’s your experience, but it’s not everyone’s. (My experience, for instance, is significantly different.) It comes from the same place as “women can find someone to sleep with them whenever they want to!” — sometimes well-intentioned, sometimes not, but either way ignoring the actual conditions on the ground for a lot of women.

  31. 1

    lot to hate about this song but my derision is inspired less by the “message” and more by its hideously caffeinated qualities

  32. Yeah. Its relentless perk is its most insidious element.

  33. i agree with that and you’re right, everyone’s experience is different. additionally, it was shortsighted to imply that a guy finding you attractive is equivalent to his wanting to have sex with you. i stand by calling Trainor’s message shallow. her affirmations aren’t reflective of any lived reality.

  34. Yeah, that’s actually my main problem with the message — it’s basically the equivalent of saying “women can find someone to sleep with whenever they want to!” When I was in high school — i.e. when everyone already saw me as having as much dating potential as a trash can, and when I’d gone up four sizes while away at school — if this song was all over the radio it would have made me feel even worse about myself. Even now it doesn’t make me feel particularly great.

    The music I think I have commented on enough. I made a point not to really comment on the message in my blurb.

  35. “Trainor is absolutely not extending her affirmation to anyone outside the already well codified as desirable “cute chubby white girl” club”

    there’s a reason the only “obese” person in the video is a dude who’s mainly there to have a good time

    (he’s the best part of the video, by the way. i can’t not smile watching him dance.)

  36. Oh God Katherine’s right she raps exactly like Ludacris in “Baby.”

  37. The guy who is actually fat (who is an amazing dancer), is complicated too though–part of a tradition of “entertain me fatty”, and not having a sexuality for himself?

  38. Oh, I dunno

  39. Anthony, is that a statement or a question?

  40. it is a statement that i am not sure about, and am forming as a question in order to foster discussion.

  41. 1) speaking of booty songs: that “wooooooo” after “i don’t think they can handle this” on bootylicious does 1000% more for me than this entire song.

    2) i think we think about the dove/axe things because the music landscape doesnt shift independently of commerce which, nowadays, is so strongly linked to clickability that shit like this, so beholden to upworthy boosterism (watch what this music video has to say to people who hate on women’s bodies!), makes that associative jump more of a skip.

    3) this theory (like the one for #2) is pretty undercooked but what the hell: this vid, with its “freeing” message in conservative casing is part of a larger, regressive trend in pop music we’re seeing? almost like a kind of whitewashing of history: 90’s house detached from the context of drag balls or 70’s disco sung by the likes of j timberlake and jessie j. its at least something to consider when we (or, at least, i) ask ourselves “what will our children/posterity think of as oldies.” as in, what is the legacy that future generations are going to inherit.

    or maybe im just an idiot (there is a lot of proof for THAT theory, at least)

  42. oops “the freeing message in conservative casing” is a different strand of thought; i more meant the doo-wop sitch here

  43. almost like a kind of whitewashing of history

    well I mean, you know, literally the history of rock music

  44. I have listened to this song for the first time just now and it is catchy. But do kids today really bother paying any attention to what their mums tell them when it comes to ANYTHING, let alone body positivity? Is it possible for a parent to comment on this subject without their kid taking it as patronising/insulting/hideously uncool? *throws Little Mix motivational hairgel in the bin*

  45. I mean, I’m probably closer to my mother than a lot of people, but she had some very specific things to tell me about how weight altered her life in fundamental, trajectory-changing ways, and none of them were platitudes.

  46. Not listening to your mum probably happened because what your mum was saying was at best innocuous or at worst poisonous.

  47. ugh let’s not turn this into an excuse to crap on moms.

  48. Although there are some lines in this song that I think are mildy empowering (don’t worry about your size, every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top), there are other lines that probably make some girls feel downright awful. First of all ‘skinny bitches’? No. There are girls out there who are tired of being called anorexic or too skinny. I’m not one of these girls, but I would hate it if my body type was stereotyped to be ‘bitches’. Another hurtful line is ‘boys like a little more booty’. Let’s be honest, almost every girl wants to have a boy like her. Girls who don’t have a lot of curves, maybe a ‘flat’ butt, could definitely feel like Meghan Trainor was saying that they didn’t have a body that is seen as attractive to guys. A song that is actually empowering wouldn’t be putting down one body type and saying that another is better. Even if the first type is seen as prettier by society. Empowerment means that you’re making any girl (or boy!) with any body type feel good about themselves. Thanks.