“Thank You” by Meghan Trainor

This album has received an absurd amount of negative press, mostly from amateur internet critics, but while it does unquestionably have its flaws, I chalk most of that up to the grudge that half the internet seems to have against Meghan Trainor. As far as I can tell, this grudge all boils down to her having released “Dear Future Husband”, which, while not an especially bad song, featured a somewhat old-fashioned view of romantic relationships which sent the online political correctness fanatics into an insane frenzy and which they haven’t forgiven her for to this day. And as we know from the example of Robin Thicke and the “Blurred Lines” controversy, the political correctness types are very good at either brainwashing or browbeating the internet into enthusiastically supporting even their silliest vendettas.

But enough politics…you’re here to read about the album itself. Here, Trainor casts off the authentic retro-Doo-Wop that had been her trademark before in favor of an equally authentic late-Nineties Pop sound. If this album is inferior to her first (and to be perfectly honest, it is), it’s probably because the thing she’s imitating here is simply not as good a field of music as the thing she was imitating then. That said, her achievement in capturing the desired sound is just as uncanny as ever, and if, as seems likely as this point, she becomes one of those artists who take on an entirely different musical idiom for each new album, I’m more than okay with that.

Really, the album’s main problem boils down to a very misguided choice of sequencing, because when you get right down to it, there are only two truly terrible songs on this album. The first is the painful brag rap “Watch Me Do”, wherein Trainor proclaims that she’s “got nice curves/nice breastesses” (I won’t venture to disagree with your thesis, Meghan, but did you have to phrase it that way? That particular made-up word already sounded asinine when Jay-Z used it, and it sounds even worse coming from you). The second one is “Me Too”, which features awful instrumentation straight out of a bad late-career Jason Derulo single (think “Wiggle” or “Get Ugly”), and a repetitive spoken sample that is annoying on about twenty different levels at once.

That said, the rest of the album is mostly decent-to-good, and these songs might have been blessedly lost in the shuffle if the record’s producers hadn’t decided to make them the first two tracks on the album. The prior bias against Trainor notwithstanding, I can almost understand people hearing those first two tracks and deciding they’re going to hate the album right then and there.

The third track, the album’s lead single “No”, is a perfect demonstration of Trainor’s powers of pastiche, an uncanny imitation of a late-Nineties Pop-R&B kiss-off single that might have been recorded by someone like Destiny’s Child. Granted, it isn’t the best track on the album, mostly because the style it captures so flawlessly is one that hasn’t really aged all that well, so the song is ultimately more an impressive feat of pastiche than a great Pop song. Still, you have to respect the skill it must have taken to capture that era’s sound with such uncanny accuracy.

The album’s highlights are “I Love Me”, a collaboration with beloved up-and-coming Rapper Lunchmoney Lewis, and “Champagne Problems”, a tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking twist on the ‘first world problems’ meme; even Trainor’s biggest detractors have proven largely unable to resist those two tracks. But there’s plenty of other strong material here…the truth is that most of this album is actually pretty solid. “Hopeless Romantic” and “Kindly Calm Me Down” are very fine ballads, the former even coming close to her best hit, “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”, in both sound and quality. “Dance Like Yo Daddy” is a highly enjoyable dance jam with some endearingly goofy lyrics, and “Mom”, co-written by Trainor’s younger brother and dedicated to their mother (who actually appears on the song) is beyond adorable. The title track is a collaboration with Reggae fusion duo R. City; it has a similar sound and theme to their earlier hit “Locked Away”, and is of comparably fine quality.

Granted, not all the material is this good. The other Reggae-influenced track on the album, “Better”, is dragged down by an uninspired guest verse by Yo Gotti, though until that verse comes in it’s actually rather striking. The ‘Girl Power’ anthem “Woman Up” is fun but still pretty obvious, and the dreary “Just a Friend To You” and the tepid “I Won’t Let You Down” don’t really offer much of interest (the former actually resembles the, er, title track of Trainor’s first album Title, only with the air of a resigned doormat in place of that song’s feisty defiance).

Still, apart from the first two tracks, nothing else on the album reaches the level of the truly awful, and the good tracks ultimately outnumber the bad. I will admit this album does come as something of a disappointment…it’s certainly not as good as her debut, and being frontloaded with its two worst tracks probably hasn’t help its case much (especially since those tracks wound up being the first promotional single and the second full single, respectively). But while Thank You is ultimately merely good rather than great, it’s certainly not the fiasco than Trainor’s detractors are trying to pretend it is, and if you like her work (as much of the general public does, despite what the critics try to claim), then for all its flaws, it’s actually well worth checking out. Just remember to skip the first two tracks, and you’ll be fine.

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