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Album Review

Meghan Trainor's breakthrough hit in 2014 was "All About That Bass," a bouncy, retro-sounding song that unabashedly celebrated women who don't conform to pop culture's scary-skinny standards. "Yeah, it's pretty clear I ain't no Size 2," she sassed.

Now Meghan's back with a sophomore album that doubles down on that message and strategy, both lyrically and sonically. Meghan gushes about learning to love herself (so much so that she's got an earnest song called "I Love Me"), and she clearly wants her fans (especially women) to love themselves, too.

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"Dance Like Your Daddy" talks about Meghan's father inculcating self-respect in his daughter: "My daddy told me now to do my own thing/He said to let it out, long as you find your groove." And Deluxe Edition bonus track "Mom" gushes, "Ain't nobody got a mom like mine/Her love's till the end, she's my best friend." Meghan also tells us, "She taught me how to love myself," formally stating the album's overarching theme. Bonus track "Friends" praises people who'll unconditionally accept, help and encourage us. Meanwhile, yet another bonus track bubbles with gratitude for a man's life-giving love ("You keep me humble, keep me focused every day/You know how to put a smile on my face/ … I wanna thank you").

"Watch Me Do" insists Meghan doesn't pay attention to critics ("I've been on a low-hater diet"). "Me Too" proclaims, "I thank God every day/That I woke up feelin' this way/And I can't help lovin' myself." Similarly, "I Love Me" credits God with having made Meghan so wonderfully ("But I can see clear when I'm looking in the mirror, saying God made me just right/I love me"). "Woman Up" feels like a playful, Beyoncé-lite tribute to women who enjoy dressing up together. "Put your favorite heels on/'Cause they make you feel strong/When you're lookin' good/You know you're gonna have a good time."

"No" repeatedly delivers that monosyllabic response as a way to fend off the advances of a man who isn't catching the hint that Meghan's just not that into him. "Better" likewise illustrates self-respect when Meghan sings that she deserves someone who appreciates and loves her, not just someone who'll use her as an ex apparently thought he could do.

The bluesy, John Mayer-like "Hopeless Romantic" encourages those longing for love to persevere, something Meghan says she's trying to do ("Know I'm ready to give you my heart/Just gotta find you so we can start/ … I'm just a hopeless romantic"). But she's also honest about how difficult it is to keep hoping at times ("Baby, come and find me/'Cause I've been so patient/And I'm sick of waiting"). "Kindly Calm Me Down" looks forward to a relationship with someone who'll sacrificially care for his beloved through thick and thin. "I Won't Let You Down" delivers that titular promise to a beau. "Champagne Problems" strives to keep life's minor irritations ("Can't believe my Uber's late again!") in perspective.

Objectionable Content

Meghan's self-love gets pretty self-obsessive on "Watch Me Do," where she brags, "I ain't saying I'm the besteses/But I got nice curves, nice breasteses," and instructs, "Watch me do, watch me/Watch me do, I said watch me!" She also winkingly wonders if others might want to trade places with her ("If I was you, I'd wanna be me too"). And there's more playful self-objectification when she calls herself a "sexy thing." Rapper-like brags on this track include, "I go straight to VIP/I never pay for my drinks/My entourage behind me/My life's a movie/ … And even if they tried to/They can't do it like I do." Still on the subject of self-adoration, "I Love Me" has Meghan saying her love of herself eclipses her love for others ("I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast/I love all y'all, but I love me the most").

"Woman Up" flirtily suggests that empowerment is equivalent to not needing a man, with Meghan crooning, "All my girls raise your hand/If you don't need a man/'Cause you're more than good enough." (But note that it's an idea that other songs here contradict.) That track also defines having a good time at least in part by imitating Madonna's sultry looks ("Don't forget mascara/And to keep your head up/Like Madonna would/Rub her lipstick redder than wine"). In similar "go girl!" territory is Meghan's encouragement (on "No") for women to use their feminine wiles to tell a man off ("If that boy ain't giving up/Lick your lips and swing your hips/Girl, all you gotta say is/My name is no").

"Champagne Problems" suggests, "So pour a glass and let's drink up all my champagne problems." "Kindly Calm Me Down" compares a man's love to a tranquilizing pill. Other mildly suggestive lines on that song metaphorically hint at physical contact ("So cold, alone/Could you be my blanket?/Surround my bones/When my heart feels naked?"). "Better" perhaps implies a sexual relationship ("I gave you what you needed").

We hear "d--n" once.

Summary Advisory

Self-acceptance and self-confidence are good things. It's a freeing, life-giving thing to be at home in one's own skin, no matter what all the "haters" say. And Meghan Trainor is fiercely fond of communicating that encouraging message. She knows who she is, she loves who she is, and she's not a bit ashamed to let the world know that she's pretty awesome.

But we also need to ask if and when it's possible for healthy self-esteem to morph into damaging narcissism.

Meghan certainly veers across the center line a couple of times in this regard, demanding attention for herself and implying that self-love is more important that loving others. And here, Scripture is as blunt as it is clear: "Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too" (Philippians 2:3-4).

To Meghan's credit, there are lots of moments when she does exactly that, praising her mom, her dad and someone who loves her, while admitting her own weaknesses. And if a fan or two thousand honestly need a really good push toward accepting and embracing themselves, Meghan can really help with that. But her bubbly determination to empower female fans still feels like it needs some balance to keep it from becoming too much of a good thing.

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May 13, 2016

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Adam R. Holz

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