Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Review: Treat Myself • Meghan Trainor

As popular music began to shift on its axis beneath her, the squeaky-clean Meghan Trainor began to flounder. Though a sufficient songwriter and a modestly capable pop vocalist, she found herself without a home on platforms that embraced her first two records just moments prior. In response, she and her record label’s executives pursued the strangest album promotion campaign in recent history, releasing rapid-fire singles while maintaining an ambiguous “coming soon” label on Treat Myself, an album that had already been announced and for which pre-orders were accepted. And after having its release date dragged along for almost two years, her third studio record was dead on arrival.

Clenched onto family-friendly pop, Trainor forfeits any chances to regain mainstream traction and shoots for the few spaces that will have her: On Treat Myself, she wedges herself into an awkward pocket between mindless children’s entertainment and playlist fodder. In the process, she produces perfectly fine – albeit predictably selfish – music at times: "Genetics," a collaboration with the Pussycat Dolls, tailors down house music for a continuation of her body-positive campaign, and "Workin’ on It" is a pleasant, easy listen. Her former strength in chintzy throwback takes new shape on "Funk," a grooved, horn-heavy cut that moves her reference point from 1950s into the heat of the 1970s.

She might be the closest to a clear-cut hit on "Nice To Meet Ya," perhaps because she phones up Nicki Minaj, whose annual performance review requires her presence on a few pop cuts to feign the potential for resurrected chart presence. Though Trainor doesn't often land squarely on target for an undeniably great song outside of "Nice to Meet Ya," many of her best attempts are inoffensive. But when she falls flat, she all but cracks her face on the pavement: "Evil Twin," for example, wouldn't be missed if banished from existence, and while "No Excuses" stumbles into a fun little chorus when her ukulele finally gets buried, it is still a two-year-old track that sounds even more dated than that.

To call this record a bad one would be too harsh; to call it a good record would be a generous fabrication. Treat Myself is a functionally sufficient, stylistically bastardized pop record that is just as enjoyable as it is noticeably forced. As a pop star who didn't have the time to mature her roots as deep as, say, Britney Spears or Lady Gaga before the noticeable shift in popular music tastes, Trainor could not remain a traditionally popular artist based on legacy alone. In turn, she – or more likely, her record label – has retrofitted her music for streaming platform performance, releasing a chintzy record that will be chunked apart into a few playlists before it fades into the background.

Treat Myself is available now under Epic Records.

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