Arts, Music, Column

There’s Nothing New ‘About That Bass’

When Meghan Trainor released her hit single this summer, I was definitely “All About That Bass.” With its catchy chorus and girl-power vibe, the song immediately became the go-to choice for dance parties with my sister and was at the top of my college packing playlist. After the first listen, however, I knew that it was only a matter of time before someone on the Internet would protest the song’s contradictory messages.

During the past week alone, I’ve read about 10 opinion pieces whose authors claim that they are definitely not “all about that bass.”

Most of the backlash falls into one of two categories: that the song is anti-feminist, or that it’s not accepting of all body types. With lyrics such as “’Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase” and “Yeah, my mama she told me don’t worry about your size.

She says, ‘Boys like a little more booty to hold at night,’” it seems as if Trainor is suggesting that a man’s approval is what a woman needs. Check the box for antifeminist. And when Trainor sings that she has “all the right junk in all the right places,” it may seem as if she’s promoting one type of figure while rejecting the size-two, “skinny b—tches.” Check yes for skinny shaming. A writer for went so far as to rewrite the song’s lyrics to promote a more positive body message for women—both less controversial and definitely less catchy.

For me, the issue is not really about all these complaints. Even though I may be one of the “skinny b—tches” that Trainor calls out in her hit single, I was never personally offended by it. I took the song as an anthem to celebrate my body just the way it is—to love the curves I do (and don’t) have—rather than taking a literal approach to the lyrics (she is, after all, “just playin’”). I understand that not everyone feels this way, and I can respect the issues that people may have with the song.

The problem, for me, is not why Trainor’s song has been criticized, but why other artists have not been questioned for similarly concerning lyrics.

Let’s just make it clear: Trainor is not the only woman who is singing about butts. Thanks to Nicki Minaj, the first thing that appears on Google when you search “anaconda” is her music video, not the Wikipedia definition of the snake. Jennifer Lopez continued the trend with her song “Booty,” featuring Iggy Azalea. And let’s throw it back to Destiny’s child, whose song “Bootylicious” merited a spot in the Oxford English Dictionary—defining bootylicious as “(of a woman) sexually attractive.”

Trainor is reintroducing a concept that has been around since Destiny’s Child was still together, so why is she being criticized for “bringing booty back”? Granted, feminist dialogue has been rapidly increasing in recent years, making it easier to find the faults in songs such as “All About That Bass” for modern-day listeners. Maybe the reason people are so ready to criticize Trainor is that she’s a new artist, a mere 20 years old, and has yet to establish an identity for herself in the public eye. Minaj may have her haters, but she also has a strong fan base who will excuse her for similar missteps because, well, she’s Nicki—and nothing she does seems to surprise us anymore. Even Beyonce’s “Flawless” isn’t free of flaws—she sings, “My sister told me I should speak my mind,” followed immediately by “My man made me feel so God damn fine.” If the song is a feminist anthem, why does Beyonce need a man to “feel so God damn fine”? Again, this slightly contradictory message is overlooked—Queen Bey, after all, can do no wrong.

I’m not suggesting that we compile a list of every song by a female artist that has even the slightest negative body message and write angry rants about each one. And I’m not saying we should excuse all of them, either. Songs can be powerful in the messages they choose to convey, and the fact that we can have discussions about lyrical content is what makes music such an important part of our lives. It’s important, however, not to single out certain artists like Trainor just because she is more direct in her approach, rather than burying the message in rap verses and quick one-liners. When you look at the artists strictly for their lyrics—not for their age, race, or credibility—then you might realize that some other women have been “all about that bass” the whole time.

Featured Image Courtesy of Epic Records

October 1, 2014