Meghan Trainor Unleashes The Talent She’s Been Hiding Away With New EP THE LOVE TRAIN
Listen, y’all: I’ve been going in hard on Meghan Trainor’s declining relevancy as a Pop icon in my last few critical Narratives for her most recent records, doing everything in my power to convince the masses she’s been on a one-way trip to the bottom of the barrel ever since releasing her ‘first’ mainstream record Title, but I might’ve spoken too soon as her latest surprise EP drop THE LOVE TRAIN seems to have taken everything I said & turned it on its head to make me look like an absolute idiot – Coming just in time for everyone’s most-feared corporate holiday Valentine’s Day, Trainor’s newest entry improves upon every criticism I had with room to spare, dropping the more problematic melodic elements of her studio-perfected persona to produce what is easily the most original record she’s produced to date; Gone are the vast majority of her culturally-appropriating personality traits that made her feel like an American equivalent of the UK’s most culturally-insensitive Pop star Anne-Marie & much of the boring, formulaic, faux-Alternative R&B aesthetics which plagued her previous albums have likewise found their way into the trash bin, instead delivering a fairly-compelling collection of soothing Pop crooners & groovy Dance Funk jams that show off who she is as a musician for the very first time. It’s not the long-awaited second-half of her upcoming TREAT MYSELF record as many fans had been expecting, but it’s almost better that way as we don’t have to sit through her less-entertaining compositions just to get to the good stuff, replenishing what little faith I had that Trainor possessed any artistic integrity at all – I wouldn’t have believed it myself a mere two weeks ago, but THE LOVE TRAIN might actually be a good record, leaving me flabbergasted in disbelief after such a long string of literal trash informed her career hitherto.
This Locomotive’s Gears Are Tuned To Perfection
Kicking off this unexpected journey into melodic bliss is the song “I’M DOWN,” a number that cherry-picks thematic elements of the popular New Wave Synth Pop aesthetic & seamlessly fuses them with a more early-teens Progressive Pop sound, making for the first Meghan Trainor song you can genuinely say feels sonically enlightening, encouraging you to break a smile & fall in love with the idea of love all over again. It’s comprised of bright anthemic choral vocals with a feminine charm, a more reasonable narrative focus that finally puts all members of a relationship on equal footing as far as gender values are concerned, pleasantly jubilant percussion rhythms that’re just bouncy enough to casually dance to & some surprisingly competent mixing & mastering that envelops the listener with superb tonal balance across the track; There is, of course, still an obscene amount of compression & pitch-adjustment being applied to Trainor’s vocals that can easily take you out of the experience at times, but the overall production is pretty solid from tip to toe, a far-cry from whatever white-girl-with-a-chip-on-her-shoulder vibe she was going for on the last couple of records – Hell, she even found a more appropriate use for her Bubblegum Pop sensibilities in the track “GOOD MORNIN’,” injecting her happy-go-lucky theatre persona of years prior with an ever-so-slight dosage of World Pop soulfulness, the track’s skippy rhythms, powerful vocals & spiritual warmth evoking the sort of gentle kindness of Michael Jackson’s “Hold Me” from the Free Willy soundtrack or the vocal radiance of the Contemporary Christian music industry’s more tolerable songs of faith.
Next Stop: Home Sweet Home
Back when Meghan Trainor was first starting to get airplay on her local Massachusetts radio station with joints like her eponymous debut album Meghan Trainor & the much more refined acoustic record I’ll Sing With You, she had an identity you could actually count on – however generically Folky it may have been – & a flirtatious charm befitting a younger act in the Pop industry we’d known up until that point; She jammed out bubbly ukulele songs, waxed romantically about her incredibly-unrealistic perspective on love & generally just stayed in her lane, giving listeners music that actually represented her aesthetic instead of adhering to industry trends like a fame fiend – Like a lost child finally making their way back home, THE LOVE TRAIN rediscovers this rather endearing anachronistic charm, thus allowing the real Trainor to shine, songs like “MARRY ME” capturing the homogenized pleasantries of her forgotten past through light, wispy vocals, dreamy chord progressions & the return of the goofy ukulele once more, strumming away without a care in the world. On the flipside, tracks such as “AFTER YOU” take things back to the late-noughties era of Classic Pop composition, producing the sort of driving, hopeful vocal ballad you would’ve found on an earlier Leona Lewis or Christina Perri record, placing her vocal abilities on center-stage with little more than a lively grand piano hammering expressive major-key chord progressions whilst symphonic swells occur in the background, allowing us to appreciate her voice without the unnecessary sass & trendiness of her typical arrangements.
Old Habits Die Hard, But That’s Not Always A Bad Thing
For all the trouble it brought us in terms of cultural insensitivity & outright mimicry of far-greater musician’s styles from the late-nineties Alternative R&B scene, the previously-released tracks off Meghan Trainor’s TREAT MYSELF at least came packaged with some pretty fantastic grooves you could really get your booty shaking to, bringing Freestyle, Dance Funk & Synth Pop together in an interesting way. THE LOVE TRAIN thankfully doesn’t lose sight of this newfound melodic spunkiness, despite the album being mostly-comprised of softer Classic Pop tunes, with songs like “FOOLISH” taking on the best qualities of the whole roller-rink-cruisin’, attention-seeking Diva aesthetic in the best of ways; It’s packed to the gills with powerful multi-layered vocal harmonies, crisp supplementary guitar lines with a funky twist, thick basslines reminiscent of Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk & a decidedly playful vocal narrative evoking the spicy characteristics of early-days Justin Timberlake or more appropriately the jams her contemporary Charlie Puth has been churning out in recent years, yet-again reeling her scattered audience back home to rekindle their unhealthy obsessions for her music once more – I’m obviously not gonna say I was too harsh when reviewing Trainor’s previous three albums, as those Narratives were based on cold, hard facts which expressed exactly why I still hold such a fiery distaste for her music, but I’ve no issue with acknowledging that THE LOVE TRAIN is hands-down the best piece of sonic media even remotely-associated with her career, a significant improvement on the overengineered Popstar she was trying to be all these years & something I wouldn’t even mind seeing my friends gab about on Facebook for weeks as if it was the hottest new Adele track everyone just had to download. The question now is whether the official release of the as-of-yet-unfinished TREAT MYSELF is going to take a cue from was learned here or if it’s going to be more of the nonsense we were given last year? Only time will tell & if her track record’s anything to go by, it’s only a matter of time before things crash & burn, but for the first time I can openly say I’m hopeful there may be a future yet for this wasted talent.
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- Meghan Trainor