The world can be a cruel place for those who fear their body’s shape and size don’t measure up—or, more accurately, down—to celebrity culture’s impossibly tiny ideals. And that’s especially true for young girls growing up today in our über self-aware, image-saturated world.
Singer Meghan Trainor says she wrote her catchy, neo doo-wop hit “All About That Bass” for exactly that audience to confront exactly that problem. In a nutshell, the 20-year-old Nantucket, Mass., native says her debut single (which has quickly racked up more than 20 million views on YouTube) is all about “loving your body … and your booty.”
“I wrote this song because I myself struggle with this concept of self-acceptance,” Trainor told The Huffington Post. “It was written from a real place, so I’m glad that other people can relate to it. … It’s impossible for a girl to live up to what we see in the magazines.” She reiterated that idea in a Today show appearance, saying, “With social media, with Instagram and selfies and all these apps that are trying to make you look perfect … it’s hard for girls to grow up nowadays with all that stuff.”
And so Trainor proudly proclaims a body-positive message in “All About That Bass,” a song encouraging listeners to embrace the body they’ve been given instead of fretting that it should look different … or be smaller.
“Because you know/I’m all about that bass/’Bout that bass, no treble,” she begins playfully (and sings repeatedly) in the song’s opening. And lest you wonder too long whether said bass is a double entendre referring to something anatomical, well, it is. “You know how the bass guitar in a song is like its ‘thickness,’ the ‘bottom’? I kind of related a body to that,” Trainor told Billboard magazine. “My producer had the title and said that none of his prior co-writers could figure out what to relate that to. So I said, ‘What about a booty? Let’s talk about that!'”
Then she talks about exactly that for the rest of the song. “Yeah, it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no Size 2,” she sasses in the first verse. “But I can shake it, shake it/Like I’m supposed to do/’Cause I got that boom boom all the boys chase/And all the right junk in all the right places.”
Trainor doesn’t mince words at all—in fact she chooses a particularly nasty one—when it comes to critiquing what women see on magazine stands. “I see the magazine, workin’ that Photoshop/We know that s— ain’t real/C’mon now, make it stop.”
She also veers in some suggestive directions as she reiterates a saucy bit of worldly wisdom her mother once dispensed: “Yeah, my mamma, she told me, ‘Don’t worry about your size’/She says boys like a little more booty to hold at night.” Which, perhaps, is why Meghan appropriates a couplet from Justin Timberlake’s 2006 hit ” Sexy Back” and gives it a 180-degree turn: “I’m bringing booty back/Go ahead and tell them skinny b–ches that.”
Not wanting to come off as too angry, though, she quickly adds, “No, I’m just playing,” before turning her attention back to her struggling peers and fans: “I know you think you’re fat/But I’m here to tell ya’/Every inch of you is perfect, from the bottom to the top.”
Many cultural commentators have praised Meghan Trainor’s unabashed encouragement of those whose features don’t reflect the aforementioned Size 2 standards. Almost overnight, she’s become the standard bearer for “regular” girls. And her core message to them, that they’re beautiful just as they are, offers a much-needed corrective in an entertainment industry obsessed with glorifying outrageous standards of beauty that are simultaneously unhealthy and out of reach for many if not most of us “normal” people.
For that, Meghan deserves a standing ovation.
Frustratingly, her much-needed message gets fused to another that’s not as positive. Even as Trainor calls Hollywood on the carpet for its insistence on waifish ideals, she uncritically embraces another, equally damaging conception of a woman’s worth: that it’s inseparably linked to sex appeal. She deems Size 6 and Size 16 to be just as sexy (actually more sexy) as Size 2. And by doing so, she’s also saying that being sexy is still what matters most, whether you’re big or small.
The video reinforces that message. Its retinue of hip, retro-styled “booty shakers” is fronted by Trainor giving us her best come-hither poses and looks, along with suggestive self-caresses. That puts the focus fully on her sexual identity and, it would seem, prowess. (Remember that line, “I got that boom, boom that all the boys chase”?)
As this song spreads across the country and the world, then, moms everywhere, thinking of their daughters, are going to quickly start wishing Meghan’s “plus-size” rhapsody wasn’t added to such a sexy selfie.
After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.