Meghan Trainor has bass but lacks depth on debut...
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Jan 12, 2015  |  Vote 0    0

Meghan Trainor has bass but lacks depth on debut Title: review

'All About That Bass' hitmaker Trainor proves she’s got the goods to go the distance, but she’s not there yet


Not to wade into the ongoing feminist debate over young Meghan Trainor, but on what planet, exactly, is she to be considered a “bigger” girl?

Maybe on Planet Hollywood, I suppose, or in whichever star system it is that breeds the likes of Ariana Grande. Whatever body-positive messages might be contained in “All About That Bass,” Trainor’s chart-topping celebration of all feminine things curvaceous and bootylicious, the 21-year-old Nantucket, Mass., native is hardly of a (plus) size that merits her weight becoming her whole “thing.”

Nevertheless, that’s exactly what her whole thing threatens to become. Trainor’s full-length debut album, Title, returns numerous times to the theme established to much success and popular championing of her “real woman” status established by “Bass.” She makes reference to her plush “bass” once again in the follow-up single, “Lips Are Movin’,” then advises a lover later on in the ballad “Close Your Eyes” to just close his eyes and get on with the business of lovin’ her big, beautiful body because “I know I’m beautiful . . . I guess I could waste all my time and my money just tryin’ to look right / But it doesn’t change who I am in my heart if I look like a dime.” Why? Why does he have to close his eyes? She’s a beautiful girl. Why keep reinforcing her insecurities about body image in song? Isn’t she supposed to be above all that?

Anyway, leaning so hard so early on a gimmick isn’t exactly a recipe for career longevity — although Trainor, who is credited as a co-writer on every track on Title and was originally signed to Epic Records as a songwriter, might indeed have the goods to go the distance.

Title is a little too thin, safe and derivative over the long haul to stand as a definitive first statement by a major new artistic force, however; much of it sounds like an American major label playing belated catch-up with the likes of Duffy and Lily Allen — whose phrasing and scoot-scooting rhythmic swagger are all over “3AM,” “Walkashame” and the bonus tracks — with none of the former’s retro-R&B freshness or the latter’s tart-tongued, everywoman, mildly risqué sass.

Trainor makes much of her affinity for girl-group balladry, ’50s doo-wop (“Dear Future Husband,” for instance, interpolates a melody lifted reverently from Dion and the Belmonts) and reggae and soca riddims, but it all gets whitewashed into a fairly anodyne mush here. And we do mean whitewashed; the hip-hop bump and plush basslines that intrude upon tunes like “Bang Dem Sticks,” “Title” and “Lips Are Movin’” are pure cosmetic window dressing. They feel an experiment in applying a contemporary “edge” to Trainor’s old-timey aesthetic that never got much developed beyond the initial “What if?” stage. The record seems much more sincere when it’s merely recontextualizing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” for a present-day audience of teens and tweens in much less artificially ambitious terms on “What If I?”

Not a bad start, all told. But if a Sia-esque out-of-the-shadows tour de force awaits down the road, I don’t hear it yet.

DOWNLOAD: “Lips Are Movin’.” Gets in your head like the debut single, without feeling totally like a novelty song.

Toronto Star

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