Pop

Published on May 29th, 2015 | by Andy Sedlak

‘Title’ – Meghan Trainor [2015]

‘Title’ – Meghan Trainor [2015] Andy Sedlak

Summary: Meghan Trainor treats her major label debut like a Throwback Thursday post and it’s a strong possibility she may have revived doo wop in the process.

3.5

Solid


User Rating: 0 (0 votes)

Length: 32:27

Released: Jan. 9, 2015

Producers: Meghan Trainor, The Elev3n, Chris Gelbuda, J.R. Rotem, Kevin Kadish

Label: Epic  |  Top 40 U.S. Singles: 3

First of all, there’s nothing wrong with revivalists. But come on. There’s no denying they get it done in the marketplace.

Do I need to mention “Uptown Funk?” The brilliant concoction of the Gap Band, James Brown and catch phrases towered over the Hot 100 for – no shit – four straight months. Self-appointed arbiters of taste tell me it immediately registered with teenagers, soccer coaches, young professionals, school teachers and Ellen.

The pursuit of mining the past for the sake of contemporary art has been incredibly lucrative in the past five years alone.

Adele will never have to work another day in her life. In 2011 she draped Dusty Springfield-inspired soul all over her smash 21. It sold more than 11 million albums. Then there’s CeeLo Green, who managed to notch a string of Top 20 hits by marrying retro funk beats with contemporary flourishes.

There’s also Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams. No explanation needed.

PopRevivalists

Adele, Mars, Winehouse and Thicke. Some of the most successful pop revivalists of the past decade.

There’s a long, long history of this kind of thing. The artists mentioned above pretty much perfected it and we all benefitted. Their work has been both commercially and critically successful.

This brings us to Meghan Trainor, who once told an interviewer that she aspired to be the “female version” of Bruno Mars. If that’s indeed the goal, the 21-year-old is on the right path.

Title, released in January, contains more than an occasional flash of blue-eyed soul or girl group sass – it’s absolutely consumed by it. Inspiration turns into emulation as Trainor works her butt off to revive doo wop. Know what’s crazy? She might have done it.

On one hand, it’s such a Millennial move. But Trainor’s not the least bit interested in using Ronettes-era pop to dig up 21st century dread like Amy Winehouse did. Her waters don’t run that deep. Trainor is commercial. Winehouse was artistic.

The video for “Lips are Movin,” a single that shows Trainor’s heavy commercial sound.

Still, there were elements I didn’t expect from Trainor’s major label debut. I didn’t expect such a revitalizing dose of feminism in the title song. Or the romantic obsession in “3am.” John Legend’s appearance in “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” pushes past a mere a cameo and becomes an actual duet. Then there’s the Platters-esque “What If I,” which becomes pretty mesmerizing as it walks across a low-key tightrope. It really can’t help but to be absorbed.

Prior to this release, Trainor worked as a writer who floated between genres. Hard to believe it now, but she spent some time writing for Rascal Flatts. The songs “DJ Tonight” and “I Like the Sound of That” both appear on 2014’s Rewind. The Massachusetts native also worked as a session vocalist and offered “All About that Bass” to Beyoncé before she recorded it herself.

But we’ll get to “Bass” in a second.

I feel compelled to say that at first I found Trainor’s image annoying. Let’s put it this way… I’d seen her Hewlett Packard commercial a hundred times. She wears dresses with cats on them, and that’s ridiculous. Her obsession with pastels is borderline scary. I couldn’t relate to it.  And I honestly wondered if all of this might get in the way of the listening experience itself.

Trainor-Look

Trainor’s public image may hamper her integrity. She looks like a walking meme.

So imagine my surprise when I thoroughly enjoyed the record. I was about to chalk it up to the age old lesson of the book and its cover, but screw that. She was marketed that way. Why wasn’t Trainor marketed as a pop star with integrity? Why is she being pushed on us like she’s a singing Troll doll?

Whatevs. Those questions won’t be answered here. What I can confirm to you is that Trainor’s record delivers more than her image at face value would suggest.

Keep it in mind as you dive in.

Her relatively short album – it’s barely a half hour – begins with an intro that perfectly bleeds into “All About that Bass.” The two should probably be played together on the radio every once in a while. And while “All About that Bass” may be serious about its respect-yourself message, it’s the lighthearted approach that makes it so easy to embrace. A range of folks – all shapes and sizes – rallied around the chart-topper’s bonding appeal. This, of course, is what the song was going for. Mission accomplished. Kudos.

From “All About That Bass:”
I see the magazines working that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
Come on now, make it stop
If you got beauty beauty just raise ’em up
‘Cause every inch of you is perfect
From the bottom to the top

The clip for Trainor’s breakout single, “All About that Bass.”

“Dear Future Husband” piggybacks off of Dion’s classic, “Runaround Sue.” “Close Your Eyes” eases back on the yucks, though unfortunately rubs elbows with vanilla. Another track, “3am,” is a remarkable song about forbidden fruit and fleeting self-control.

From “3am:”
I know it’s complicated
This always happens when I’m wasted

Trainor co-wrote every song on Title. She manages to avoid muddying her lyrics, which is something many young artists tend to do. Her co-writer, Kevin Kadish, may deserve credit for helping out. He co-wrote almost every song on Title – notable exceptions are “3am” and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You.” Kadish is an emo-looking dude who’s written with Jason Mraz and is pals with the chick who wrote Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper.” As one of Title’s producers, his imprint is everywhere. He waxed a crisp, glossy sheen over live instruments so the album’s singles could neatly slide onto pop radio.

Again, mission accomplished.

Meghan Trainor Record Release Party For Her Debut Album "Title"

The singer with co-writer/producer Kevin Kadish, who’s been described as her “secret weapon.”

“All About That Bass” lead people to Title. Duh. But the rest of the album finds Trainor contributing to the national conversation on female empowerment. Every word in a song like the title cut makes a fantastic case for R-E-S-P-E-C-T. In “Title’s” case, it does so in part by borrowing a bit of the melody line from Jimmy Soul’s 1963 hit “If You Want to Be Happy.”

Trainor’s got a universal message. She just wraps it in glitter.

From “Title:”
I know you think I’m cool
But I ain’t one of the boys
No, don’t be scared that I’m gonna tie you down
But I need a little more

There are some songs on Title that flat out don’t cut it. “Walkashame” and “Bang Dem Sticks” are both atrocious. They try too hard to appeal to the well-intentioned, but flawed young woman.

Lay off the gas, Meg. You can’t force it.

Trainor in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.

For purposes of this review, I’m looking at the album as it was originally released in January. That said, this is probably one of the few instances in which the “Deluxe” version of the album is more than worth the price of admission. “He’s No Good for You,” “My Selfish Heart” and “Credit” are all among Trainor’s best songs. I really dig “Credit.” The narrator in the song takes … credit … for sprucing up an ex’s image, only to see him bolt for greener pastures.

It’s actually a shitload of fun.

Pop music forges a rut when it takes itself too seriously. Meghan Trainor may be smirking, but she still sings with integrity. And she’s saying things worth remembering. Years from now, we’ll either look at Title as a fun piece of throwback pop or the beginning of an artist’s journey. Predicting it is a paper tiger. Time will tell.

For now, I’m thinking bubblegum is bubblegum. But I’ll be damned if it’s not tasty.

 

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About the Author

Andy Sedlak is a former television reporter who lives in Dayton, OH. He grew up in a household that pumped Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel every weekend. He instantly became a new man when he discovered Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone” in junior high.



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