TUESDAY, MARCH 22, 2016|
Posted by: Mike Montemarano
Meghan Trainor's release of "No" showcases the ways in which the Grammy award winning pop star attempts to take jabs in order to take a step forward for her take on female empowerment through bouncy, studio-processed tracks which showcase her dance moves which take center stage in the music video. Much like "All About that Bass," a fun pop song which had an explosive reception, it seems like "No" has a kind of mantra to it that at times seems self-deprecating but also has pitfalls and mixed messages that come with Trainor's on-the-surface empowering intentions, and certain critiques made by those who find Trainor's brand of feminism to be more on the lackluster side.
The main issue critics had with Trainor's song, which was brought to light in some copiously repetitive ways was that, yes, she's commodifying her curves to sell singles in a way that endorses conventional norms of appealing to men's body preferences, which is a bit unnerving in its focus still being entirely on having a good body as a person's main redeeming quality. Yes, she's dismissive towards women, who she calls "bitches," whose bodies happen to be normatively more appealing to industrial beauty standards, i.e. thin. It can't be expected that everyone will take her curve-centric and diva-esque egoism with a grain of salt, and that's because it's a pop song with a recurring big budget-produced music video that is intended to sell. It doesn't provide the intellectual satisfaction that these critics are looking for, nor does it demand that kind of reception.
The music video for "No" will most likely leave those who had these original grievances with the same sort of feeling...that of a huge hesitance to buy into the pop diva brand of feminism Trainor puts forward. Her lyrical content on a superficial level is a blanket statement about the need for consent in any kind of relation, which is a great message to put forward and one that is still very much necessary for audiences to keep in mind given the extreme focus on women's sexuality in pop music. The approach that the production takes, however, seems to be missing the point. Dealing with issues of consent is something that Trainor seems to be taking lightly, because that's how it'll sell as mainstream music. She does everything in her ability to make her message laden with intentionally sexy diva undertones, present in lyrics such as "All my ladies listen up/ if that boy ain't giving up, lick your lips and swing your hips, all you've gotta say is [no]."
Why would you need to lick your lips and swing your hips before denying someone consent? This is just the sort of internal conflict within the message that critics consider to be a bit more on the obnoxious end of missing the point. Don't get me wrong, I understand the thought process: a pop song that is in its own right a lecture about a woman's every right to have a say in absolutely anything she consents to is going to be a hard sell if not accompanied with sexy lyrics and a few bodies in full fishnet suits and not much else, the way the industry works in many ways demands that message to be hyper-sexualized to sell better.
With all that flak being fired, it's also entirely necessary to point out the ways in which Trainor's egocentric diva personality works in delivering a good message. There is a great deal of power play in the dynamics of her lyrics, which in its own right gives an empowering feeling. Especially at the beginning when she says, "I think it's so cute, I think it's so sweet, how you let your friends encourage you to try and talk to me, but let me stop you there before you speak." and "First you're gonna say, you ain't running games, thinking I'll believe in every word, call me beautiful, so original" It's definitely a direct confrontation against people who don't accept no for an answer, and it's a demand for that level of agency and respect that sexually oppressive people are ignorant of.
All in all, the "No" music video puts forward a message that, when taken with a grain of salt, can be interpreted as empowering and cool through the smoke and mirrors of typical hyper sexuality that's inherent in mainstream pop music today. Beyond its superficial level, though, there really isn't all that much wonderful substance there to satisfy third-wave feminist critics who have dissected Trainor's music in the past. Beyond all else, the "No" music video is sure to spark some conversations about the issues Trainor grazes in her performances from a few different angles.