Meghan Trainor transitioned from unknown pop commodity to viral superstar in 2014 off of underdog mentality. The jukebox anthem “All About that Bass” created a much-needed dent within an increasingly homogenous music industry, where labels exploit artists for their “picture-perfect” looks just as much as their talent (especially with females).
Since that monumental song, Trainor’s been quite busy winning a Grammy for Best New Artist in 2016, collaborating with various contemporaries, and judging the Fox music show The Four: Battle For Stardom. Her third official album Treat Myself directly addresses the very thing that made Trainor famous in the first place; self-care and individual jubilation.
It’s a worthwhile message; but when portrayed with little nuance or originality, the results can feel tedious, derivative, even mind numbing. Treat Myself is exactly all of those things. Everything about Trainor’s newest endeavor is trite, from the dizzying electro-pop that could’ve used some better mixing, to the predictable power ballads that periodically surface throughout.
It’s never a good sign when a piece of art is delayed multiple times. When it occurs in entertainment, it usually indicates uncertainty and a lack of confidence in the director/writer’s work, either from the studio, or the creator themselves. In Trainor’s case, the 26 year-old was supposed to release Treat Myself on two different occasions, but neither panned out. She instead decided to write more songs , which eventually turned into the most recent version we have now.
Trainor’s now a happily-married entity, making her hollow love escapades on “Ashes” and “Nice To Meet Ya” that much less interesting. The silky pasteurized drum beats are a dime a dozen on your typical bubblegum pop radio station. Lyrics such as “You know I’ve been trying to work it/You know ain’t nobody perfect” are empty connotations that ultimately sound like Trainor is trying to change her lifestyle to please some guy of interest (which I guess lis less like the self-love she’s talking about).
Trainor’s work is rarely subtle. Even “All About that Bass” carried a wink-wink aesthetic to it, where “treble” meant “trouble” and “bass” meant, well, you know. On Treat Myself, Trainor tries that same forthright attitude with very little flair. “Funk’s” repeated chorus is both annoyingly naive and bombastically wide-eyed.
There was clearly some type of heartbreak prior to her marriage. Anyone who goes through that process experiences some sort of self-doubt or regret. It’s simple human nature. Trainor doesn’t know whether to approach this with the ethos of a Taylor Swift album (Red) or the outright savagery of Lizzo’s recent output. “No Excuses” has the same handclap tempo as any of the latter’s most popular hits, while “Ashes” attempts to capture the metaphorical storytelling of a Swift snapshot. The tone is all over the place.
Any emotional weight is completely absorbed by a stark tendency to say things like “I miss when we used to funk” (wink wink) or “I’ll make you come quick, and then I’ll break your heart” (another double entendre maybe?).
Her trademark message of self-love only marginally leads to stellar music. The perpetual “love yourself” melody in the background of “Babygirl” is a nice touch to the Gospel-tinged ballad. The Pussycat Dolls-assisted “Genetics” is a memorable EDM banger worthy of its beatified intentions. Even the trap-inspired “Have You Know” at least seems genuine on the surface. By that point though, the trite songwriting grows too stupefying to even register.
For an album that meant a lot to Trainor’s career, Treat Myself ends up being a tiresome listen filled with fabricated glam-pop worthy of the millennial garbage showcased on modern FM radio. Very rarely (if at all) do listeners get a glimpse of Trainor’s world. Yes, she represents a body positive image, but there’s never a moment where she extends that attitude to progressive heights.