Meghan Trainor has half a dozen straight-banger pop songs and no self-awareness whatsoever. Nowhere is this clearer than in her recent cover feature in Billboard Magazine, where she made several embarrassing and truly tone-deaf fumbles.
Despite having a ginormous platform and several people to manage her, Meghan Trainor continues to say things that show she either has an extreme lack of perceptiveness or she has the privilege of never listening. Take this statement she made to Billboard about her aunt Lisa's husband:
Lisa married a Trinidadian soca star, Burton Toney, who introduced his niece to the genre. Trainor pulls out her phone to show me a photo of a gorgeous black man with washboard abs. "I'd show [photos to] people in high school, like, 'That's my uncle!' And they'd be like, 'What?'" she says. "I always say, 'I'm Trini to the bone,' which means you have Trini blood. I don't. I just wish I did."
[Epic Records chairman/CEO Antonio "L.A."] Reid noticed the influence right away. "I've always asked her, 'Is there somebody black in your family? Because you've got a lot of soul for a white girl from Nantucket,'" he says.
But that's the kicker right there, in Reid's quote. Meghan Trainor is a little white girl from Nantucket. She was bred in the depths of white WASP culture so deeply that even her use of the word "ain't" in the interview feels like cultural appropriation. Meghan Trainor is not from the South, and she most definitely isn't from Trinidad. The fact that she feels comfortable saying this to a reporter shows just how comfortable she is sopping up cultures that aren't hers and transforming them into profit.
This criticism has been leveled at Meghan Trainor's music as well. Over at MTV, Carvell Wallace did an excellent job breaking down how white singers appropriate dialect and tone that is not their own:
Imitating black language for the sole purposes of making money is an act of erasure. This might not be true in every single case, but it’s certainly true in the context in which artists like Trainor operate: an industry where countless black artists throughout the 20th century have had their intellectual property stolen and used to make others rich.
And this is exactly what Trainor is doing. She's hiding behind a guise of youth (she's 22) and body positivity (the music video scandal for "Me Too") in order to appear just naive enough to not be forced to address the problems she's creating.
In the same Billboard piece, Meghan talks about politics, saying:
"I should be way more aware, and if it was [Clinton] or Trump, I'd definitely vote for her," she says. "But I've never voted and I don't have any desire to." On social media, where she commands the millions of followers one would expect, Trainor's range spans from upbeat to goofy, with little soul baring or soapbox lecturing.
Meghan Trainor, though, is political. Though she repeats over and over again that she's "not a feminist," her belief in body positivity stands in direct opposition to that claim.
This is frustrating to me, as a pop critic, because Meghan Trainor is really fucking good at her job and I want to support her. She has a ton of dumbly contagious songs which—as annoying as "All About that Bass" and "Me Too" might be—are master classes in crafting hooks. On top of that, she is one of the only women pop stars with both writing and production credits on her own music, as well as credited work on other people's music. She's written Fifth Harmony's "Sugamama" and "Sledgehammer," Jennifer Lopez's "Ain't Yo Mama," Rascal Flatts' "I Like the Sound of That," and Jason Derulo's "Painkiller."
In short, she is an insanely prolific pop song writer. Until I learned this week that Taylor Swift is apparently out writing songs under Swedish pseudonyms, I might have even called her the most prolific female top 40 songwriter of 2016.
Meghan Trainor has the opportunity to become one of the most prolific songwriters of the 21st century. At this rate, and at such a young age, she could be the next Max Martin in 15 years. But if she wants to write songs for the largest, most diverse generation in American history, she needs to wake up.
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.