Pencils reluctantly removed from their ears, Meghan Trainor’s engineers and session musicians have masochistically signed themselves up for round two: her sophomore album, Thank You. A thank you is surprising from Trainor, who mentioned in an interview that she couldn’t be bothered to name her first album. When prompted for one, she went with Title. Thank You is no more imaginative or evocative, but at least there’s a modicum of politeness this time around. That said, who is she thanking? The title appears to have no significance, no relevancy. Nothing. Of course, one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but if the music is as superficial and hastily thrown together as the title, it doesn’t bode well.
Clearly, the thread of the album is supreme self-confidence. That much was hinted at by the lead single released previously, NO. Songs like Watch Me Do, Me Too, and I Love Me reinforce Trainor’s word of the year: me. Approaching this album, I was curious to see how she’s developed this approach from her debut. I wrote previously that Trainor exudes an egoism that is confused, unsure where it stands between extreme self-confidence and stereotypical reliance on a (male) partner. There’s plenty of room for extreme egoism in music. The likes of Kanye have shown us that. Perhaps with a little more focused thought, Trainor’s chosen musical character could develop well.
Well, no. Thank You reveals the full flourish of its colours upon the very first listen. And it’s a dazzling kaleidoscope of shades of musical beige. Trainor’s direction situates itself somewhere between a poorly-timed resurrection of the very worst parts of late ‘90s/early ‘00s pop, and a baffling pastiche of the very blandest fads in current pop. Bamboozling entrances of Flume-esque house parps give way to frankly pathetic attempts of soulful piano ballads. Thank You seems to take haphazardly from all the latest trends, with no thought given to how they can be used thoughtfully, progressively, or even parodically. Like Barack Obama’s recent comments regarding Hillary Clinton – “she’s like your relative who’s just signed up for Facebook. Dear America, did you get my poke? Did it appear on your wall? I’m not sure I’m using this right. Love, Aunt Hillary” – Trainor’s sophomore effort stumbles its way through the soundscape of today’s chart music. “Oh, this?” she says as she trips over a kitsch and cutesy acoustic guitar chord progression, “this is what the kids like, right?” That’s the strangest thing for an artist who’s just 22 years old.
There are moments of catchiness hidden deep within. Mom (feat. Kelli Trainor) is a relatively inoffensive, bouncy song. Although cheesey and still largely thoughtless, I wouldn’t be stirred to any particular emotion if it played on the radio during one of my shifts in the Students’ Guild Shop, and at this point that is the strongest praise I can muster. The opening track is kind of alright too, come to mention it, in a similar way.
Trainor’s sophomore album amounts to little. While she has sorted her confused musical egoism, the result still leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It’s the kind of self-confidence displayed by a very entitled, very arrogant young woman. Like I said, egoism is no bad thing in music, and artists like Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kanye, Eminem, Iggy Azalea and countless others show this. But Trainor’s take on it comes across as trying far too hard, with no original direction or risk taken in the music to justify it.
For the second time, Trainor has exposed herself as an utterly worthless pop artist. She brings nothing to the table of current pop music, and instead just takes from that table, appropriating other artists’ work for her own use. We can only pray that her musical career ends here so she can be forgotten all the sooner.