Meghan Trainor’s debut EP Title arrives on the scene squarely at the intersection of contemporary pop and nostalgia. Like a lot of its pop contemporaries, the album is heavily processed and rigidly structured with everything in its appointed place to an almost mechanical degree. And yet the backbone of the EP is its doo-wop inspired, throwback-to-the-’50s vibe which lends an old-school warmth to the clinically precise recordings.
Having sung my fair share of doo-wop style harmonies over the years in various choral groups, I certainly have a fondness for that archetypal sound and I love hearing it updated with modern recording technology. And for all of the bluster about its lyrics or its endearing music video, the EP’s lead single ‘All About That Bass’ is actually driven by a great, old-school bass line. That’s doo-wop.
Part of what’s strange about this modernization of an old style is that it evokes that Happy Days-esque sense of warm, comfortable Americana. But is that simply my memory of Weezer’s ‘Buddy Holly’ video? How can I – or the even younger listeners to whom this EP is marketed – be nostalgic for an era that was over before my parents were born?
While I enjoyed this combination of doo-wop and pop, I didn’t quite enjoy the shoehorning of some contemporary elements into Title where they simply seem unnecessary. Though the ukulele strums that begin the title track are both topical and well-placed, the rap section that arrives later enters so abruptly that you can almost hear the market research grinding against the melody as it’s pushed into the song. And then there’s the vocoder-modulated guest vocal in ‘Close Your Eyes’ that sounds like Wanz from Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis’s ‘Thrift Shop’…if Wanz was a robot; this odd addition only detracts from an otherwise uplifting and relatively serene song.
Trainor’s lyrics are pretty much your standard tween fare about getting comfortable with your body and developing enough self-respect that you’re comfortable demanding respect from prospective suitors. And as for the minor controversy created by Trainor’s use of the phrase “skinny bitches,” well, there’s not even a discussion to be had here. Any talk that Trainor’s lyric constitutes skinny shaming completely disregards the line’s actual intent and context. The line in question is actually one of the more supportive lines that you’ll find in popular music, as it defends and supports women of all body types who are suffering from body image issues. Directly addressing the “skinny bitches” Trainor says:
I’m here to tell ya, every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.
Who says manufactured controversy doesn’t fuel the media cycle?
Trainor and her co-writer Kevin Kadish didn’t reinvent pop music with Title, but they did approach it with a novel twist. If you like catchy melodies presented with a ’50s-ish vibe, Title is for you.