OK, I’ve been listening to Meghan Trainor’s very catchy tune, “All that Bass,” on the radio for the last several weeks, and today I finally watched the video. I’ve also read some of the criticism about its being another of a string of recent pop tunes that the writers/producers cynically create for the purpose of jumping on the female body self-acceptance bandwagon—and further, that though it purports to do so, it fails.
I disagree on both counts. First of all, this song is so clearly aimed at a teenage girl audience. When’s the last time those critics hung out with teenage girls? Do they understand that every time some pop star they admire (see: Beyonce) sings of self-empowerment and not worrying about being perfect and “flawless” and skinny, many of those girls breathe a huge and collective sigh of relief? So I’m all for that bandwagon—even if they’re only jumping on it to make money.
In deconstructing every last lyric of these songs, the critics are missing the fact that they’re the only ones doing that. The girls who are listening aren’t. They’re getting a really good message that counteracts the vast majority of the horrifyingly destructive and demeaning messages they’re bombarded with every day. And that’s got to feel good.
Yes, I understand that Trainor’s song briefly focuses on “booty” being good for attracting boys. And, yes, when I talk to teenage girls, I discuss the importance of not valuing themselves based on whether they’re attractive to boys—or anyone. But let’s be realistic. These are teenagers. How many teens do you know—girls or boys—who are not focused on how others see them? Do you remember waking up on a morning in middle school or high school to a huge pimple between your eyebrows? Do you remember how you felt and all the calculations you were going through in your mind to figure out how to get out of going to school—or at least whether it would just be better to wear a huge bandage in the middle of your forehead and tell everyone that you fell down the stairs and landed on a thumbtack that happened to be lying there, point up? This is the real world, not some fantasy in which we can convince every teenage girl that they absolutely never have to think about how boys see them.
All that being said, there is a line in the song that I would rather wasn’t there:
I’m bringing booty back
Go ahead and tell them skinny bitches that
Better just to not have a line like that, because every time I hear it and think about the anger and blame behind the words “skinny bitches,” I miss what she says right after:
No I’m just playing
So although she immediate “takes it back,” I really just hear the first part. However, all is mostly forgiven when I remember the lines:
I see the magazine workin’ that Photoshop
We know that shit ain’t real
C’mon now, make it stop
So really, let’s give Meghan Trainor a break…and even better, maybe thank her for giving a whole bunch of teenage girls some room to breathe.