Assorted thoughts on a couple pop songs the radio has recently, incessantly played:
- “Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes
Between this and “Stitches”–a song I’m convinced is a blatant death threat to an ex (courtesy the lines “Needle and thread/Gotta get you out of my head/Needle and thread/Gonna wind up dead”–Shawn Mendes seems determined to encapsulate every shitty, entitled attitude associated with Nice Guy-ism. Slathered in a voice which registers as whiny and pleading, the song is a plea for a woman to dump her boyfriend for Mendes. Presumably this is on the basis Mendes is a “gentleman” and the boyfriend is “just not right for [her],” rather than on, say, any specific reason or even a deep, unrequited feeling. I mean, come on, Shawn, you’re asking someone to ditch some dude to shack up with you and the best you can muster is “Tell me why are we wasting time”? The lyrics are entirely placeholder, the kind of fluff you could pluck from any thousand songs which purport to be about love, but are, in fact, about possession of a woman. When Mendes screeches the titular lyrics, he isn’t making a case for any sort of relationship, based on mutual trust and respect and passion, but for having something he can maintain as his. I imagine his face scrunched and contorted as he sings, evoking more disgust than swoon in his object of attention as she walks off one last time, finally tired of his manipulative bullshit.
- “Me Too” by Meghan Trainor
If one could use any musical act to sum up Clinton-era neoliberalism, Meghan Trainor certainly has the career to justify it. “All About That Bass” is a catchy, radio-friendly/PSA-ready little number, a nice message of body inclusiveness sung by someone who only registers as “big” by the entirely skewed perspective of the entertainment industry (this is also quaint next to, say, Sheer Mag’s Tina Halladay). Steadily, she’s moved from the kumbaya spirit with each new single towards mythologizing herself as a newly-accepted representative of the elite. “Me Too” could almost be seen as the final form of this transformation, a 3-minute monument to Meghan Trainor wearing gold and getting into VIP sections with an entourage and free drinks. The lyrics, and Trainor’s cadence, almost begs comparison to the excess of hip-hop, but it feels false for two reasons: 1) More than three-fourths of the lines don’t rhyme (one verse attempts “piece” with “VIP”, “drinks” with “me”, and “Tom Cruise” with “achoo” before finally getting one right…”to” with “do”); 2) If nothing else, hip-hop’s focus on bling was in direct defiance to white, ruling class elitism, showing off their success to a culture which attempted to suppress them. There’s a reason videos of wild house parties loaded (seemingly) with riffraff, on the grounds of stately mansions, became a staple of the genre. In contrast, “Me Too” is all gatekeeping: a wealthy white woman talking about how awesome she is while getting let into the roped off section of a club. She isn’t crashing the party, she was let in. Self-aggrandizement shouldn’t be this boring.