Photo Credit: The Sun
On the four-hour drive back from university today, I listened to a lot of ABBA. It lightened me up, damn it; made me all sentimental. I’m sitting here now with the task of shoe-horning an interview into a feature; an interview with an artist that might ordinarily pass me by. Suddenly, the fit isn’t so awkward. I’ve discovered a new angle on things today – it’s just my luck that the interviewee at hand is such a perfect example of what’s got me thinking. To those who know me, I’m not going mad - the bubblegum just got me like…
In 1972, the American photographer Robert Frank produced a documentary entitled Cocksucker Blues. It followed the Rolling Stones on their stateside tour in support of Exile on Main St. and featured scenes so utterly debauched that a court order ruled any screening without the director present illegal. The film was revolutionary as it was the first music documentary to expose the legendary rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle in all its questionable glory. At various points, Mick Jagger can be seen snorting cocaine; the band are caught on camera with groupies; most infamously, one such groupie is filmed shooting up on heroin. Needless to say, the film remains unreleased today.
Now picture this. It’s an April morning in London and one of the world’s biggest stars is reflecting on their own rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle for a magazine feature. Our star is by no means as battle-damaged as Mick and Keith (come now, who is?), but in sales and radio-play, she is to this generation, as popular as the Stones were to theirs. What is it then that makes Meghan Trainor so damn different?
“I miss the crap out of [my] dog!” she exclaims; “I love that dog. Every time I’m home, it’s like a big celebration she loves me so much. She’s with my younger brother who couldn’t come out because he’s at college. He’s babysitting and I make him FaceTime me every day!”
Trainor rose to fame writing songs for other people. “I wrote for Rascal Flatts when I was 18 years old in Nashville”, she recalls; “I wrote these songs and like a year later they got cut and now at 22, it’s about to be the number one country song. So like, it could take five years to bring a song to life, which is scary for me because I write a lot. And there are songs on my album that I would cry about every day that aren’t on there.” Having picked up her musical talents largely by ear, Trainor began experimenting with the song-writing craft aged only eleven, but her big break came way later in 2014 with the otherly anthem, All About That Bass. It’s a song that rails confidently against the bullshit normative oppression of body image, with an emphasis on being happy and yourself. Meghan Trainor, 1; Abercrombie & Fitch, 0. Not a bad score to start, am I right?
On the topic of doo-wop she explains her anxieties; “I was worried about whether when people hear it they’re like ‘oh, it’s just a 90’s thing’ but on the overhand I was thinking that if I heard this I would be like ‘yes, this is finally back on the radio.‘“ Well, it does have to be said, Trainor’s superfluous songs are catchy and, of course, very radio-friendly. In an age where so much music is generated and so little is subsequently heard by labels, Trainor’s innocuousness, whilst irritating to the more pained artists among us, is healthy – hers is the music you’d like your children to listen to; you can mow the lawn to it. It’s not going to define the epoch, that’s for sure, but it’s nice to have around nonetheless.
The pop princess’ lifestyle seems similar though – it’s not a clever marketing façade; pop music’s just gotten a bit nicer it would seem. Take Trainor’s Grammy win for example; there’s no showing off when she describes how the victory felt: “You work so hard - I mean, there’s many other awards like that you want and I love going to the awards shows and finally getting those. It’s so cool. But the Grammy…that’s why I cried so hard because I’ve never worked so hard in my life and that’s the dream! That’s like our Olympics. That’s our everything. And so to get one at such a young age, at 22, was unreal. It didn’t feel real. It felt like a big movie and I couldn’t stop crying!”
Now, I’m sure to those familiar with my musical taste, this article must seem so tongue-in-cheek, that my tongue has actually blasted through my cheek and is hanging out of the other side of my face. I promise you friends, I mean this. Last week, Nicky Wire of the Manic Street Preachers called new pop music ‘vacuous’ – I think he’s missing the point of what pop is about; maybe he’s letting nostalgia get in the way of things. Heck, Maybe Meghan Trainor’s just the tip of the iceberg, but I’m convinced that the bubblegum pop lifestyle is something we should all take time out to enjoy now and again. Being endlessly angsty is so damn tiring – sometimes, it’s just about stripping out the pressure of analysis and saying woah – that right there is a tune.