Thursday, March 24th, 2016

Meghan Trainor – No

Actually the debut single of Aximili-Esgarrouth-Isthill


Alfred Soto: It took most of my considerable resources to resist the one-word post knocking this K-Pop/TLC pastiche. I made it! Now I’ll close by quoting her: “You need to let it go.”

Katherine St Asaph: If only it were 14 years ago and this could appear as the unsurprising amalgam of “When the Lights Go Out,” “Most Girls,” “Soldier” and God knows what else, with a fake-out intro out of a Kandi song and a just-say-no-to-boys message suited to ’00s pop mores. Its sole concession to 2016 is its chorus, so memeable you can almost see the lowercase and emoji: “my name is no / my sign is no / my number is no.” Of course, “pop-lovers” and “memeable” mean nothing without an audience and zeitgeist to provide that love and those memes, and too much of the zeitgeist has already decided they dislike Trainor, on a suspiciously personal level. Is it really Trainor they hate, or what they see as unearned confidence? (I really hope the “untouchable” bridge was not someone’s idea of a joke at her expense.) Trainor’s voice is thin, “lick your lips” is incapable of showing up in a pop song without some mention of hips, and those 14 years ago this would be third-tier at most, but a certain contrarian part of me wants to like this anyway just to spite the fake context.

Edward Okulicz: Truth is that while there are some bits of this that don’t work (the a capella intro, the “untouchable” middle section), if this had been Mya’s follow-up to “Case of the Ex,” it would have been quite accepted with critics back in 2000. The worst bits are where Trainor’s Title personality comes through loudest; she’s a more talented writer of generic sass than she is a performer of it. The chorus is a radio earworm though, so none of that really matters.

Mo Kim: The verses are a mishmash of Female Empowerment 101 bullet points, but the chorus is gloriously busy, elementary school rhymes and vocal runs bumping and grinding against a chain-link armor instrumental. That Trainor chastises you for distracting her when she’s In The Zone is no coincidence; imagine this as a lost Britney b-side, and it clicks.

Cassy Gress: The backing track is very much like “Most Girls,” or at minimum something from 2001, but her lower register is so strangely nasal that she just sounds like a klaxon through all of the “nah to the ah to the no no no” parts. As messages go, she could do a lot worse, but wrinkling up your nose does not an anthem make.

Josh Love: I’m squinting at the dark dye job and pretending this is the debut single from a snappy, self-possessed young artist named, let’s say, Treghan Mainor, who had absolutely nothing to do with “Dear Future Husband.” I hasten to say I’m all about that bass on “No,” which again is not meant as a reference to this artist’s previous work, because she doesn’t have any.

Anthony Easton: Though there are half a dozen singers who I would like to work this material more, the production has a certain guile, and it is smarter than Trainor’s previous singles. 

Scott Mildenhall: It’s certainly a throwback — to Glee, of course. There’s Meghan, on the stage, that bloke on the piano for some reason by her side, and oh look — at the back of the hall agog is her no-good boyfriend/suitor/pest. All this attempted sass would likely never have come about without the Twitter-powered rise to prominence of “COME TO BRAZIL”-type fandom, but it’s obviously quite presumptuous of anyone involved to think Meghan Trainor can assimilate with it. Perhaps, then, this is a wholehearted attempt to subvert the fixed false narratives of a presentist pop culture. Right? Or perhaps, most listeners really have no strong feelings about the singer. Who can say? Certainly, like Glee, it’s not quite as good as the stuff it’s trying to imitate.

Thomas Inskeep: C’mon — that intro fake-out is smart. As is most everything about this song, proving that Trainor’s not stuck in doo-wop handcuffs. Bigger bass than “All About,” more sass than anything she’s released yet, production sounding like an early-’00s TRL staple, a confident vocal — she’s not only telling the men “NO,” she also wants the world to know that she deserved that Best New Artist Grammy. And who knows? This is a good sign.

Michelle Myers: A girl can dream that this species of highly competent early-00s pastiche becomes a dominant sound on top 40 stations everywhere. This is the musical mid-point between N’Sync’s “It’s Gonna Be Me” and Willa Ford’s “I Wanna Be Bad.” And yet, it feels like Trainor’s heart just isn’t in it. There was plenty to dislike about the old Meghan — her cutesy retro affect, the way her voice could sound both croaky and baby-ish at the same time – -but those were the qualities which made her unique. She doesn’t sound like she’s having much fun and it detracts from what could have been a slam dunk song for someone else.

Megan Harrington: She thinks she’s as cool and topical as emoji — a low bar — but she’s about as relevant as a doge. She thinks she’s as unequivocal as the word “no,” but a “nah” or a “nope” or a “nay” would suffice. 

Brad Shoup: Trainor reaches not so far back, to the deluge of minor-key pop/R&B smashes. She and Ricky Reed summon those Cheiron stabs; Trainor approximates the vocal nimbleness of a She’kspere-produced group. Whether that gives this a higher degree of difficulty, I’m not sure. I do know that those wah-stained Martin productions were able to toss meaning over for full-body sensation. And that’s hard to do on a whim. As the snaps and clicks rains down (and also some marimba licks that resemble ringtones), you can almost see Trainor brushing her shoulder. She’s taken these baroque testaments to going out of your gourd and turned them on their head. She’s completely in control.

Will Adams: There’s a nice self-awareness in how “No” opens, its crackly vinyl sound portending yet another doo-wop single from Trainor. But it’s a clever fake-out, and instead we get a hyper-rhythmic, minor-key bump that recalls a lot of things from the early 00s, but for me, mostly Stacie Orrico’s “Stuck.” It also recalls a lot of 2014, which is to say a wholesale rehash of “Problem,” so there’s that to contend with. Still, I can think of few better uses for Trainor’s malleable persona than something like this.

Leonel Manzanares: This is basically a series of elements, quirks and arrangements that can easily work for literally everyone else in Pop — or just any other singer, as long as they have a personality. I wonder if Fifth Harmony could make a more credible version of it. 

Maxwell Cavaseno: Earlier over winter, I hit #PeakMax when I was in the car with my family, and the local DJ remarked that Trainor was promising some real “curve balls” with her album, and I rolled my eyes. Because everyone on the planet is hip to my shtick, including my family, my mother chided me: “So tell us how you really feel.” Honestly, considering Trainor’s relied on a pretty simple retro pastiche background for novelty emulation this long, I wasn’t going to be dissuaded easily. And so while “No” is probably a shocking revelation for someone who wasn’t expecting her to appear with a Linda Perry-type song, it makes TOTAL sense. Retro kitsch is out with pretenders such as Elle King getting in on the wake of her buzz, and while the John Legend duet established a sense of “credibility” past her musical comedienne role (a la the first few Katy Perry singles), it doesn’t guarantee her support from younger fans. Now we’re onto the next format of white girl soul, which pairs her confidence with a more modern edge without the stodginess of Adele’s MOR drama nor the limited appeal of R&B marketing. It’s smart, and its a change of pace, but it’s sure as hell no “curve ball.”

Lauren Gilbert: No.

Cédric Le Merrer: My hope is that 50 years from now, the Beyonce biopic will use this song in a scene demonstrating the music world just didn’t deserve her.

Reader average: [3.87] (8 votes)

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11 Responses to “Meghan Trainor – No”

  1. My blurb is utter gibberish, but Katherine near enough said much of what I wanted to better anyway – that some people have for whatever reason already made their mind up after one album and won’t conscion Trainor attempting to release something like this. The difference is that I don’t believe most people (woolly term) could care less.

  2. Stacie Orrico FTW

  3. Fun Fact: the main producer on Meg’s last album, Kevin Kadish, was also responsible for Stacie Orrico’s Stuck and More to Life. Interestingly, he’s not credited on this one, despite the much more obvious similarities to those songs.

  4. Lauren nailed it.

  5. Alfred is clearly a better person than I am.

    (But how much would this song be if sung by someone with some snarl to them? It’s not good enough for Miranda Lambert, but she’d be a vast improvement over Trainor here.)

  6. Agreed

  7. “Stuck” is the only song mentioned in this entry that is THAT much better than this.

  8. Josh’s blurb is hilarious, and painfully true – I’m afraid to admit my true feelings for this single because I don’t want them to be seen as an imprimatur for her entire discography. Proof that the “guilty pleasure” is still alive and kicking under the poptimist regime of 2016.

  9. Treghan Mainor should be her Nekci Menij name tbh

  10. The problem I have with this song (and what seems like will be this era as a whole) is that everything seems so forced. Trainor’s management rode that 50’s wave until the wheels fell off and now it just feels more like *insert blonde pop star here* dyed her hair brown as an excuse to release edgier and more urban sounding music, rather than it be a natural evolution of her sound.

  11. IDK about “urban sounding” per se… Just b/c I can’t imagine where there’d be a parallel.