Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” might be sending mixed messages about body image but the song’s reached number one on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart, which means Meghan is everywhere. But should her lyrics be?
Whether people agree with the movement or not, feminism and general self-acceptance is popular these days and record labels will say mostly anything to sell a digital download. Enter Meghan Trainor’s problematic song “All About That Bass” which purports to promote personal pride in nontraditionally sized women, but then makes sure to mention that men still like them. From "All About That Bass," which MTV notes will top the charts this week:
Yeah, it's pretty clear, I ain't no size two
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I'm supposed to do
Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
And all the right junk in all the right places
Trainor's lyrics remind me of that dumb Twitter thread surrounding #feministsareugly last week, which resulted in bunches of women making duck faces to prove to men, who already don’t agree with their views, that they are sexy. Ladies, wake up, who cares what those neanderthals think?
As Chloe Angyal wrote over at Feministing about Trainor’s catchy cut:
… you shouldn’t worry about your size. But, again, loving yourself because dudes like what you’ve got going on is a pretty flimsy form of self-acceptance. In fact, it’s not really self-acceptance at all if it depends on other people thinking you’re hot. Most of us want to be attractive in the eyes of the people we find attractive — I sure as hell do — and I don’t want to downplay how great that can feel. But the point of loving yourself no matter what is that you love yourself no matter what boys, or anyone else, thinks about your booty.
This brings me to another clip that debuted last week by BJ the Chicago Kid, an up-and-coming R&B singer with a great voice. I’ve liked his stuff for awhile, so when I learned his new “Perfect” video hit the web, I was excited. Then I watched it and felt ... off.
Unlike pop music, R&B is largely targeted toward women, and specifically, women of color. We get nice messages of love, attention and steamy sex along with the ‘You’re beautiful girl’ songs, but like Megan’s “Bass,” BJ’s video felt a bit disingenuous. In “Perfect,” BJ calls a woman, who is worried that her stomach not being flat enough or her butt being too big, beautiful. Great. But in the clip, the woman switches between standing nearly nude with her breasts flouncing in front of a mirror, trying on clothes and posing in lacy lingerie on a balcony — as we’re all wont to do when we’re alone in, amiright? — which struck me as pandering to the male gaze as a male R&B sang about female self-empowerment. Wait, what? Still, I’m clear that the clip is meant to draw interest, and new BJ fans, in men and women; the ladies come for the message and smooth voice while the men come for the breasts. Sex sells and men like to see boobs, it is what it is.
Listen, I’m all for positive body messaging but now that feminism is trendy and the music business has noticed the pot of gold at the end of Gloria Steinem and bell hooks’ collective rainbow, can lyrics and videos at least come from a pure place that isn’t riddled with pandering? I've asked before if it was possible for a man to sing about female self-empowerment and self acceptance without sounding fake around Pharrell Williams' "Marilyn Monroe" video. But it's clearly getting tougher out there, until then I guess I'll just keep listening to the self-love gem that worked the first time.
Image via "All About That Bass."