Meghan Trainor seems to be at the center of a made-for-TV movie plot wherein she accidentally stumbles into the life of a music superstar. She manages to get away with it with simple and uninspiring choreography and lyrics so artificially fabricated that listeners’ brains get smoothed over in complacency. It sounds like muzak squeezed through the grinding gears of TikTok’s algorithm—but in the way some television is designed to be on in the background while you scroll your phone, I can sort of enjoy her work. Virtuosity aside, she seems like a kind and happy person.
But now, this woman—who I’ve actually managed to become endeared to through her TikTok and her songs that reverberate catchphrases like hollow ping-pong balls—is breaking the fourth wall and tearing down the very specific dimensions she was good at existing in. Trainor—a pop star forged from the clearance bin of Charlotte Russe, an algorithm who managed to win a Grammy in 2016 for “Best New Artist,” and a literal mother to a kid so stinking cute it makes me wonder if he himself is an Old Navy ad—has taken her AI-esque lyrics a step too far.
Previous hits of hers, “All About That Bass,” “Dear Future Husband,” and “Made You Look,” have existed in an airtight dimension of music made for chain retail emporiums that have signs that read, “Half Off Sweaters That Jingle All The Way.” But her upcoming single, “Mother,” which we got a preview of this week, stands to tear a hole in Meghan’s musical matrix.
“Mother” is a bold self-declaration coming from someone who comedian Rohita Kadambi correctly described as “at most, second cousin once removed.” Simply put, Meghan Trainor is not mother. That sort of honorarium requires much, much better music. And calling yourself “mother,” rather than having it bestowed upon you by legions of emotionally unstable stans, is an ethical violation of the very DNA of being “mother.” Commenting on her own popularity, even with a wink, is unsealing that airtight TJ Maxx- TikTok fever dreamworld she had dominion in. She’s directly engaging with the public, and people are brazenly shouting, “NO!!!!”
What has allowed Trainor’s music to subsist for as long as it has and even thrive on social media is that it is inoffensive. There’s nothing aside from its inherent blandness that I can rally against. Critiquing it feels like punching down a helium balloon. There’s no weight to counter my hit. I am only exhausting myself in this endeavor, because I can attack her music as much as I want, and still, across the globe there are hundreds of thousands of small armies of dancers assembling to nail the low vibrational choreography of Trainor’s TikTok dances. I once heard comedian Matt Rogers refer to her music as “girl-bossanova,” and I am still searching for an orthopedic surgeon to help reattach my bottom jaw.
The 25-second long clip has created a battle surge of critics against the “Made You Look” singer. Writer Ryan Broderick commended her for “making pop music so unlistenable it’s almost outsider art,” and The Tab described Trainor’s new song as “a hideous and transparent attempt at capitalizing on pretty much everything they possibly can capitalize on.”
Meanwhile, Swedish popstar Zara Larsson presented a chicken-or-the-egg type scenario in defense of Trainor’s forthcoming single: “She didn’t create this for TikTok, TikTok was created for Meghan so she could put her songs on there,” she tweeted. “TikTok’s real mother.” Though I guess, in the sense that we’re all bickering like siblings who truly hate one another, Meghan Trainor is mother.
And mother has stranded us here in the Meghan Trainor uncanny valley. It’s uneasy here, and I don’t know if there’s any going back. I fear the only way forward is to stream “Mother.”