To the left of a pair of bookshelves, there’s a print of a fox’s head hanging on the wall. Embedded in the silhouette are words from The Little Prince. “If you tame me, then we shall need each other,” it reads. “To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s words are ostensibly for children in the same way that “playing nice” is for children: Sure, those words are for kids, but the world’s a better place when adults heed them, too.
Meghan Trainor’s “I Won’t Let You Down” is like that.
I’m not sure that this song ever really achieves “that Caribbean vibe” that Trainor was looking for, but it does achieve the rare feat of combining certifiably uplifting lyrics with certifiably uplifting sounds. Like The Little Prince, “I Won’t Let You Down” is simple and, as with The Little Prince, that’s not a complaint. Lyrics like “you can’t dance to the beat of a heart’s that broken” should annoy me with how treacly they are and yet the meatiness of the hooks and the earnestness of Trainor’s delivery are genuinely endearing.
The last twelve months have been fucking brutal. Caitlin and I have been trapped in our house for a year, missing birthdays and funerals. I haven’t seen my soon-to-be-92-year-old grandmother since she was turning 91. The last time I hugged my mother, five months ago, I could barely contain the tears that came from the conflicting emotions of having a newborn and having just lost Elly. So when Trainor sings, “I’ll do what I gotta do / anything I gotta do / make sure I take care of you,” sure, it’s trite, but fuck if it isn’t spot on.
I think that music criticism often conflates a high barrier to entry with a high degree of quality, and that’s a mistake because I think a song about improving yourself for the people that you love, and for yourself, is likely better if it’s easily accessible. I think of that children’s book snippet hanging on my wall, of all those people who have become “unique in all the world” for me and, yeah, for them, I want to grow past “my mistakes, probably more than I can count,” even if the sentiment is simple. In the midst of a pandemic—hell, at any time, but especially in the middle of a pandemic—I want those people to know that I won’t let them down.
I’d argue that Trainor’s song is worth hearing at any time, but with temperatures rising and the hope of spring in the air, I think that right now we might actually need “I Won’t Let You Down.”
This post originally appeared in The Queue: A Songs & Stories Newsletter. It can be read in full, with footnotes, there.