Key Tracks: “3am” “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”
Like many pop songs, you’ve probably heard “All About That Bass” on the radio and thought, ‘I bet her album is all like that, but a little worse.’ “Title” is a solid debut for Trainor, in that it sees her properly explore different influences beyond most debuts. But, it ends up being hurt by the very same thing.
If you’ve seen pictures or videos of Trainor, or seen/heard “All About That Bass,” you’d think she has a pseudo-bubblegum pop vibe to her. The album’s first song, a cutesy 25-second vocal interlude (???), does nothing to dispel that. And the third track, after “Bass,” called “My Future Husband,” doesn’t exactly sway away from it either. But Trainor does show off a number of talents – on “3am” she adopts more of a doo-wop/soul quality to her vocals. She does try her hand at rapping, successfully on closer “Lips Are Movin” and unsuccessfully on the horribly titled “Bang Dem Sticks.” And she does pull off two ballads – the mid-album sleeper “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” with John Legend, and “What If I” later on. Otherwise, the album is topped off with pop/R&B mixes that vary from catchy to overlong to forgettable.
As of now, it’s safe to say Trainor is known as the “All About That Bass” girl. And to her credit, that’s somewhat unfair. Trainor might only be 21, but she’s been making music independently for years. And it’s also unfair that with that song’s ever-increasing popularity (including a surprising Grammy nod for Song of the Year) mixing with her brief time in the actual industry, she might be stuck with that title. What makes Trainor’s debut more interesting than other debuts is also it’s downfall – lack of identity. By combining bubblegum pop, R&B, hip-hop, etc., we get a full array of Trainor’s talents, but we don’t really get enough of each to really know who she is as a singer. I’ve discussed this before, especially in dealing with Ariana Grande, who is having the same problem (in an opposite way). To be a female pop singer in 2015, you have to have a persona. Beyonce, Adele, Lorde, all have the personae to match the music. Trainor is still forming one (although already further along than Grande), and having a hit as big as “Bass” this early might end up being detrimental to her. Although “Title” is interesting as a debut, and Trainor’s superb songwriting skills are on focus the whole time, it isn’t consistent enough to produce a proper image. And as far as her lyrics go, she aims throughout the album for feminist anthems about body positivity and owning oneself – but a simple Google search leads to articles of how problematic “All About That Bass,” “Dear Future Husband” and “Title” are, among other tracks. The image she’s trying is one straight out of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” (more a coincidence of time than an actual influence) but isn’t nearly as crafted.
There’s a few different ways to look at “Title.” On a purely musical standpoint, it can be seen as a fun collection of songs that mix throwback rhythms with modern vocals. It can also be seen as a marvel of songwriting from a talented young woman. Or, it can be seen more in-depth, as a varying, frustrating collection of songs that each try so hard to be unique that they end up uniform together. It’s tough not to look at it lightly, tough not to glaze over its flaws. So where “Title” has some pop highlights, it struggles from problematic and contradictory beliefs, and a lack of an image in Trainor. She’s certainly a talented songwriter and a versatile performer, and there’s promise on “Title.” The whole package just isn’t there yet.
If you like this, try: Into diverse pop? What a time to be alive. Into problematic female performers? Azealea Banks.