I would just like to start this off by saying that I am actually a fan of Meghan Trainor. I am normally very skeptic of new artists with hit songs that people buzz about because when you have a hit song that strikes around the summer like “All About That Bass”, it’s very unlikely and rare that new artists with hit summer songs find any other success after that single (i.e. Magic! who sang “Rude” and Nico & Vinz who sang “Am I Wrong?” just to name a few from this past summer’s deluge). However, Meghan was able to bring success with other singles, like “Lips Are Movin'”, “Dear Future Husband” and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” and when I bought her album Title, I was pleasantly surprised that this girl brought a whole new element to the music industry: a throwback sound that was still altered to be made her own. You can’t deny that that’s something noteworthy even if you love to hate her, which apparently, some people do, which confuses me.
Now, with her debut single and her album doing so very well this past year, I can see somewhat why the Grammy went to her for Best New Artist. I would really not like to spark that debate up again, because myself being a James Bay and Tori Kelly fan, I had a differing opinion on how that should have gone, but I’m not going to be like some of those horrible people out there that decided to contact Meghan directly and tell her how she didn’t deserve to win. Even if Justin Bieber had won that award years ago, I wouldn’t have attempted to contact him to tell him he sucks (because, in reality, he doesn’t). That’s not okay, guys. But, what I’m getting at here is that Meghan was rewarded for bringing her own touch to a doo-wop sound from the ’60s and ’70s and it really paid off for her. So, when something works, why would you change it?
The music industry, or at least the pop genre, is all about reinvention, I get that. Do you really think after the franchise was over that Daniel Radcliffe wanted to be only offered wizard roles because he’d be forever typecasted as Harry Potter? No (even though it is one of the greatest film franchises and book series of all time)! But everyone is trying to reinvent themselves and in that mess is where we lose a lot of great performers. For example, Christina Aguilera went from girl next door innocence with her first album and songs like “Genie In A Bottle” to be a mature, sexy grown up woman with Stripped and songs like “Dirrty”. Finding a niche there, she worked with the success she had. Until she took it a little too far with her album Bionic, which was essentially a commercial flop. She didn’t want to be put in a box, but didn’t know how to properly express it. She went from being like Beyoncé, where almost every album she put out, people bought it without a thought because they just knew it was quality stuff, to questioning whether each album she put out would sell at all, despite no one being able to deny her still present vocal prowess. That album brought her down and she was no longer on that level. She could fail and it was proven. This, I fear, will be the fallout of Meghan Trainor’s next album Thank You.
I can understand the desire to branch out and try different things then what made you popular, but learn from the mistakes of others: branch out, BUT DON’T FORGET WHAT GOT YOU WHERE YOU ARE. Justin Bieber went from being this tiny little kid who could sing really well and focused on his vocals and guitar and drums and piano which he played himself, to being a public figure known for peeing in mop buckets and acting like a punk in public like Chris Brown. Why do you think “Love Yourself” was such a huge hit, besides it being written by Ginger Jesus himself, Ed Sheeran? Because it reminded people why we liked him in the first place: take away all of that production and choreographed dancing, and you remember that the boy can really really sing. Why do you think Tori Kelly hasn’t had a problem at all transitioning from doing acoustic covers on YouTube with just her and a guitar, to producing a full length album with production and everything, and getting a Grammy nomination out of it, like Meghan? Because even when she was taken from that minimalistic setting of her and a guitar, she still remembered that that’s where she came from and she infused that feeling into the new music she made, which made old fans happy and new fans impressed. When I first heard “NO” from Meghan, I hated it. I don’t like songs that have a spoken chorus. My personal preference, but also I feel like in the formula of songs, the catchiest part of the song shouldn’t be this spoken word part, it should be the part that people are trying so hard to belt out in their cars as they drive down the road. However, I also hated it because it was essentially what everyone else said, a recycled Destiny’s Child soundalike. However, the song grew on me and I bought it, thinking it was going to get better as the album got closer and closer to release. Also, when I heard that the point of the song was to sound so different from what she did before, I at least thought she would still remember her sound throughout her experimentation with new influences. Nope.
Every other promotional single released from the album so far has been disappointing to me as a fan from the beginning, but also as a consumer in the music industry that knew from the minute she won that Grammy award and all of that buzz started about her not deserving it, that she needed to prove people wrong. This is not the way. Every single feels like generic pop, without a hint of the originality Meghan brought to the music on her first album. I didn’t stick around to listen to the entire sample given to you on iTunes for any of the songs except the one titled “Mom” which sounds like classic Meghan and in my opinion, the silver lining that this album isn’t going to be as drastically different than it is being set up to be. Meghan seems to be running into the same problem that Christina and Justin both fell into: reinvention, but how? Look at some of today’s stars for example.
Miley Cyrus chose to reinvent herself not once, but twice, to get rid of the Hannah Montana image. She tried with songs like “Can’t Be Tamed” and people thought she grew up, but didn’t treat her all that differently. Then, she became Bangerz-era Miley and all hell broke loose. She uses shock factor as her ally and has figured out how to make it work. Plus, she has some serious singing chops, so it’s not entirely lost on people that can close their eyes and listen to her sing. My guess is she’s eventually going to come to the point Justin did and remember that we don’t care about the gimmicks up to a certain point, we care about your freaking voice and would really like to hear you just sing.
Lady Gaga came to that same conclusion: the gimmicks need a rest. Lady Gaga is a phenomenally talented artist and another artist that I have been a huge fan of since she started out in the industry. But around ARTPOP, it became quite clear that with the changes going on in her life outside of the music and in her backing support team, she was losing sight of the reason she was doing all of this and like Elton John said, it wasn’t her best work. Then, she teamed up with Tony Bennet, starred on America Horror Story, performed at the Oscars, The Super Bowl, the Grammy’s and blew everyone away. She classed up, while still keeping some of that wild and crazy energy we love from her and that’s brought her so much success over the past couple of months. She’s working with some really awesome people on her next album and from what it looks like, going back to what she knows of pop and mixing it with the new things she’s learned about dance music and I have a feeling her next album is going to crush it.
This is something Meghan and other pop stars need to pay attention to. When reinventing, keeping in mind where you came from is key. No, your whole next album doesn’t have to sound the same. But you still need to remember that you’re known for something because it worked and to stray so far south from it sonically is a mistake. Not even the lyrical content is as admirable on this new material from Meghan and I thought her first album was impressive lyrically. And that’s distressing because if this album is as different as it is described to be and it doesn’t do well, the hate about her winning that Grammy over the other acts is going to resurface and that could get ugly. She also could lose a lot of the popularity that she gained with her first album and it’s success.
Now, here’s what I’m not saying. I’m not saying “Stick to what you know because you know you’ll get money out of it”. But when you have a sound that fans really dig and that you are good at, I don’t think changing it completely helps anyone. The fans won’t like it and it won’t help you grow as an artist. It’s better to expand on what you know that start from scratch on something you’ve never tried before. People have been able to change their sounds and fans have changed with them on it, Bieber and Miley being two great examples of this. fans have adopted the new sounds because they’ve graduated in steps. The way Meghan seems to be going about this change is happening in all the wrong ways and I can only hope for her sake that the rest of the album that we haven’t heard yet is impressive on its own.