When Meghan Trainor’s Title was released in 2015, it was occasionally a breath of fresh air. It subverted classic 60’s and 50’s pop by singing about modern ideas. It was very similar to Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox. The bops were there. “All About that Bass” and “Lips are Movin'” were genuine hits, and most of the best moments on the album signaled the energy of those two songs. Whether it was the doo-wop of “Credit” or corny white-girl rap “Bang Dem Sticks,” there was something mystifying about Trainor,which the industry obviously sees since she’s appeared on a bunch of singing shows and the Grammys. What’s most puzzling about Trainor though is her appeal to (much) younger listeners, which her latest EP, The Love Train answers (sorta).
What sticks out about M-Train’s work in retrospect is how juvenile and G-rated it sounds. Despite being a talented songwriter and singer, her delivery is incredibly childish, and some of her lyrics almost sound like they’re deliberately put in terms that preschoolers could understand or process. Part of this is the timbre of Trainor’s voice, she sounds like a packaged thirteen year old popstar, but she doesn’t help this by writing lines like “I don’t need no coffee/I just need a quick smooch.” It makes you reconsider older lines about one night stands and drunk texts, and you’re left to wonder who Trainor intends to listen to these songs. The Disney pop song nature of the songs only makes the songs sound more whimsical and off-putting. “I’m Down” and “After You” have fake orchestrations that make them sound slapped together for a TV movie. Where the silly nature of Trainor was endearing on Title, it’s become annoying and weird.
The Love Train can occasionally be an excellent work of feel good pop. “Good Mornin,’” which features Trainor’s father, is generally uplifting and fun. Despite some corny lyrics, the sentiment is nice. “All the Ways” is rock-touched pop a la Kelly Clarkson. Even though it has the same annoying, clingy girlfriend feel of “Dear Future Husband,” it also has the spark that makes that song enjoyable. “Foolish” also is a heartfelt response to “Can’t Stop Falling in Love With You,” even if it has some of the most cringe-worthy lyrics from the young songwriter.
While Trainor continues to show her chops as a musician, she doesn’t really reflect that she’s grown since we first heard “All About That Bass.” The Love Train is her release that has the most in common with her undeniably fun debut, but all we’ve learned about her is that she’s gotten married. While I’d like to see Trainor expand her range, it seems unlikely at this point. She’ll probably keep writing dirty songs for children.