Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

Reneé Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion – Not My Fault

I guess one could argue this whole site is kind of a Burn Book for pop music…


Jackie Powell: When I first saw the “Not My Fault” music video, I was worried. Reneé Rapp looked a little stiff and apprehensive while synchronizing pop star choreography to a song that on paper was going to take her music career to another dimension. She also looked slightly intimidated by Megan Thee Stallion, whose dancing talents are as natural as the swagger she brings to every song she’s on. And Megan doesn’t fall short here. Her performance on this track at first felt more natural than Rapp’s. Was this really the natural progression in Rapp’s music career? Who was she trying to be here? Ryan Tedder joined the 24-year-old Rapp and her frequent collaborator Alexander 23 to craft a sexy pure pop song that relies upon a slick bass line, overdubbed backing vocals and a variety of percussion. (There is a cowbell in there if you listen closely enough.) When watching Rapp in the video prior to her SNL performance, I felt like she was battling between being herself and the character she had portrayed for so long, Regina George. But by the time Rapp got to Studio 8H and had a meta moment with Meg and the original Regina, Rachel McAdams, it was almost like Rapp could then fully lean into the song as herself, and become the pop star she wants to be rather than the pop star she’s expected to be. When she debuted “Not My Fault” live on the SNL stage, she passed a test on her continued path to pop stardom. The confidence she has exuded in the past on Everything to Everyone and Snow Angel returned. “Not My Fault” is the most pure pop single she’s ever made and a different set of expectations come with that. It’s almost like she dropped all expectations and took her not-giving-a-shit chaotic energy during the “Mean Girls” press cycle into her performance of the song on SNL. She sang and added the choreography in when she wanted it in. She expressed herself and shook her ass when she wanted to. It was just another example of how Rapp continues to redefine what it means to be an openly queer artist in pop. It’s not her fault that the world has fallen in love with her, but it most certainly has been her plan all along. 

Will Adams: Reneé Rapp is convincing as neither Regina George nor a pop star, so thank god for Megan Thee Stallion for picking up the slack on this too-slick-for-its-own-good piece of disco-pop. Her rapped verse brings the energy, while the sung hook of “I woke up hotter than I was yesterday” is more effortlessly cool than anything else in the song.

Katherine St. Asaph: [4] for you, Reneé Rapp. You go, Reneé Rapp! …and more for bossy Megan bye.

Taylor Alatorre: The halo effect of Megan’s verse is so strong, it took me a while to realize that Reneé Rapp’s part is not just rote placeholder pop, but actively bad placeholder pop. She sabotages her Miss Steal Your Girl routine by singing all her lines in a pinched register that aims for “husky” and lands on “sleepy”, over a compressed air blast of sterile lite-funk product that even Maroon 5 would sneer at. It’s not made clear whether we’re meant to be cheering or pitying this incarnation of Regina George — probably some mixture of both, given the changing perceptions of her character over the years. But the sudden squeal of that viscerally discordant “AMEN!” makes me want to root against her out of respect for my eardrums. The song itself seems impatient to get to Megan Thee Stallion, who wisely disregards the surrounding environs in order to jolt us awake with her own brand of tightly controlled mapcap energy. Through sheer bravura she’s able to better capture the spirit of the original film, or at least the way it’s been endlessly refracted through countless internet exchanges, without ever intending to portray anyone other than herself. Megancore will never die, but you will.

Jacob Satter: With the exception of a quick dalliance with “Talk Too Much,” I have managed to avoid Rapp (and, more shamefully, Mean Girls in all its iterations) until now, but “Not My Fault” suggests she’s currently manifesting as the safe gay Meghan Trainor? Maybe that’s catty but excuse me if I’m a little incensed that Rapp is responsible for the first time I’ve heard Megan get mired in cookie dough.  I mean, that IS Rapp’s fault.

Alex Clifton: Am I overrating this? Maybe. But this is the first new song in months where I’ve listened on repeat because I just need another hit. Rapp reclaims the original insult into a cheeky, proudly queer pick-up line, which is such a neat reversal. Meanwhile Megan brings a different and powerful contrast to Rapp’s candy-coated vocal, a well-matched foil. On top of all that, Rapp and Megan sound like they’re having a good-ass time. It’s fun, it’s gay, it’s a little stupid but in a smart way, and it’s exactly the kind of confidence boost I needed for this year.

Leah Isobel: A perfectly serviceable “Say So” rehash, enlivened by Megan’s old-school showmanship and Reneé’s very modern disaster-lesbian hyperactivity. But their pairing feels a little artificial, and the song’s for-kids-but-also-grownups energy strains to encompass them both.

Nortey Dowuona: To be quite frank, I get why this happened. It’s good synergy, it’s a good idea, but: has this idea already existed? Let’s check: JoJo – Sabotage (ft. Chika); Gwen Stefani – Rich Girl (ft. Eve); Queen Latifah & Dolly Parton – Joyful Noise; Reneé Rapp – Tummy Hurts (Remix) (ft. Coco Jones); Reneé Rapp & Alyah Chanelle Scott – The Sex Lives of College Girls. But what about this song? Oh. Reneé Rapp – Not My Fault (ft. Megan Thee Stallion) — a smug, pretentious song about being cool and rich. A classic? Who knows? Sing this to me in 20 years.

Kayla Beardslee: I don’t mind adding another ethical “Say So” substitute to the shelf, but there are better options for all the Dr. Luke vegans out there.

Dave Moore: We do have Kim Petras at home, but it’s the sort of thing where you just buy another one when it’s on sale because you’re just going to stick ’em all in the basement anyway. 

Jeffrey Brister: I like Rapp’s woozy but vaguely menacing gay-girl posturing — we need more shameless “steal your bitch” sentiment from our female pop stars — and then Megan jumps in and makes what was already text supertext, aggressive and swaggering, sprinting across the beat. It’s enough to make me look past the paint-by-numbers disco beat and enjoy the frothy confection of the vocals.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: It’s supermarket-friendly disco, the bassline just muscular enough to make the coos feel like comfort food. The lines don’t stick at all, but the breeziness does.

Alfred Soto: As meltable as cheap Brie, “Not My Fault” complements Mean Girls too well: marketable queer subtexts that upset Ron DeSantis #Wokewarriors.

Mark Sinker: Welcome to the dessert of the real (it’s mutant ninja semiosis all the way down).

Dorian Sinclair: While I’m not a huge fan of Jeff Richmond’s compositions from Mean Girls, “Not My Fault” has a lot more in common with the pop pastiche of his work for terminally underrated sitcom Girls5EvaG5E, though, pairs his smoothly derivative songcraft with Meredith Scardino’s frequently absurd — and memorable — lyrics. It turns out when you give a blandly competent composition some blandly competent words you get, surprisingly enough, a competent yet bland final product. Thank goodness Megan Thee Stallion is there to provide some interest, but she can only do so much.

Ian Mathers: Trying hard not to grade this on a curve just because the project its from is so incredibly ill-conceived (and, according to people I trust, not terribly well executed) but you know what if you just ignore that and listen to the song, it’s pretty fun! Megan referring to herself as “Black Regina George” is so on brand that it has actually happened before and so doesn’t automatically yank you out of it here if you’re pretending to forget the movie and Rapp sounds the kind of over it you kind of want when you’re being this offhandedly dismissive. Musicals are, generally speaking, a mistake, but this works just fine on its own.

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: The Mean Girls reboot is a lame ass musical, and this gay girl magic is relegated to the closing credits instead of worse versions of the Broadway tracks? Lesbo Regina George deserved better. 

Rachel Saywitz: I watched a horrible bootleg of Mean Girls on Broadway a few weeks ago — horrible in that the camera focused primarily on Cady’s actress and that the musical itself is horrible, with dull and unremarkable music, fatphobic jokes that seemed so tonally out of place for a show that debuted in 2018, and a cast that mostly didn’t bother to expand beyond their movie counterparts. I was watching it as the release of the Mean Girls: The Movie: The Musical drew near because I was curious what the hullabaloo over Reneé Rapp was about; the now B(ish)-tier pop star played Regina George on Broadway from 2019 ’til its closure in 2020. I don’t know what I was expecting — some kind of snarky bi-sexual-babe take on the character? Something at least a little similar to what I had seen of her in movie trailers, which showed off her low growl of a speaking voice as if to elicit both fear and lust in even the enviest peers? But on Broadway, I just saw someone hot and blonde playing a mean girl — no spunk or disarming friendliness, just someone with a nasty attitude. Thankfully, some time away from the stage, and the closeness of a film camera (not to mention a lack of body shaming), has given her a chance to rough up some of Regina’s smoothest edges. “Not My Fault” offers up a Reneé (and a perfectly non-apologetic Megan Thee Stallion) who not only enjoys being a bully, but who I would love to be bullied by. This Regina doesn’t hide in platitudes; she sings the truth with a citrusy ting: “You came with her but she might leave with me,” she shrugs amidst a funky bass groove that squelches like an arrhythmic heartbeat. She’s the quintessential bully of my childhood — strikingly hot; flutteringly soft in public while actually being totally unapproachable; probably, definitely, at least a little bit gay. In posters advertising the new Mean Girls, I’ve noticed that Reneé’s Regina occupies the center of every group photo — a marked change from the original’s promotion which squarely had Lindsay Lohan’s Cady as the star to watch. “Not My Fault” shows why and how this change happened. In this decade where bimbos and Barbies are celebrated non-ironically, where cultural ideas of femininity have simultaneously expanded and shrunk drastically, we’ve shifted from being afraid of Regina George to welcoming her with open arms into a hot girl society, where “girl” is always subjective but we always “wake up hotter than [we were] yesterday.” And okay, we’re a little mean. But it’s not our fault!!

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: By a wide margin the most competently written and performed part of Mean Girls The Movie The Musical.

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4 Responses to “Reneé Rapp and Megan Thee Stallion – Not My Fault”

  1. ok but my joke was better (not very good) when it still said “dessert of the real”

  2. the silliest objection i have to this song is that it’s supposed to be about being regina george, but it’s named after and samples a line by cady heron

  3. if nothing else this song was decent marketing because I kept seeing tracks from Snow Angel show up in recommendations and avoided them – do you have time to listen to “Tummy Hurts” today? Uhhhhhh anyway Snow Angel the song is a [9].

  4. “Ethical say so substitute” is soooo good

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