There are probably undiscovered alien life forms on the periphery of the Milky Way who have heard “All About that Bass” by now.
Meghan Trainor’s modernised doo-wop smash was irrepressible enough to knock “Shake It Off” from the top spot of the Billboard Charts and, regardless of its lyrical mixed messages on body image and decidedly monotone hook, is nothing less than a well-constructed pop single. Six months down the line Trainor and her producer/co-songwriter/kingmaker (or should that be queenmaker?) Kevin Kadish finally have a full album of material under their belts ready to try and capitalise on that success.
Probably the best compliment that one can give Title is that it does feel fresh and distinctive in an oversaturated pop market, the inclusion of blue-eyed soul and sassy modern hip hop as bedfellows mildly exciting. This doesn’t extend to it being wholly enjoyable, and indeed numerous times the attempted balance of ‘classic’ instrumental stylings and contemporary flair comes off as forced and awkward. The pseudo-rap approach that Trainor takes on in her vocals at times universally falls flat, not least on transparent “All About That Bass” sequel “Lips Are Movin”. The bridge section of “Walkashame” feels utterly shoehorned and does more to detract from the song than add to it, but the worst offender is the insufferable “Talk Dirty”-lite urban nonsense with the appropriately horrendous title “Bang Dem Sticks”. It’s on this track that the other major flaw in Title is made most glaringly obvious.
Trainor has voiced her opinion that melody is more important than lyrics in the writing of a song (incidentally the same opinion held by this writer), but to her this seems to have justified the inclusion of some utterly terrible phrases. “Dear Future Husband” tries and fails to integrate classic and contemporary aspects of a relationship and makes its author sound both wholly unpleasant in its assertion that “even if I were wrong, you know I’m never wrong” and continual incentivising of gift-giving with sex, be it implied or declared outright. Elsewhere the pedestrian topics explored on “3am”, “Walkashame” and the “Title” track (a name for an album that is far less clever than whoever chose it probably thinks it is) are tackled with little to no finesse, “don’t call me boo like I’m some kind of ghost” one standout pinnacle of awfulness. Defenders of this argue that Trainor should be praised for talking about ‘real’, relatable topics in her songs, but for one a multitude of other artists do this far more successfully and for another, why can’t music be fantasist, and a place to escape? This is an album that feels mired in the time its been produced by its lyrical content, despite the old-school leanings of its music.
Either way, the glaring issue with Title is that Trainor is trying too hard – too hard to be different, and too hard to be likeable among the adolescent market. Ironically, it’s when she takes the gas off the pedals and drops her music’s youthful trappings that she’s at her best. Both “Close Your Eyes” and the John Legend duet “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” are tasteful, enjoyable slow jams, and if“What If I” may come nowhere near to say, Adele in quality, it is a well produced and written nostalgically-leaning pop song with some particularly lovely string parts. These highlights fail to save the album from the rut of silliness and immaturity the rest of the material has dug it into, but they do provide breaths of fresh air within it.
Blaming a pop album for attempting to be too populist may be self-defeating, but it does seem that with Title, Trainor and co. have tried to appeal to everybody and failed to make an album that will truly resonate with anybody. The aftershock from “All About That Bass” will probably generate strong sales but for now it seems likely that the cultural zeitgeist will remain unshaken.