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Eliot Glazer on why “lowbrow dum-dum” Meghan Trainor’s music is Kidz Bop trash

Eliot Glazer (Photo: Matt Monath)
Eliot Glazer (Photo: Matt Monath)

In HateSong, we ask our favorite musicians, writers, comedians, actors, and so forth to expound on the one song they hate most in the world.

The hater: Writer and comedian Eliot Glazer has a lot of thoughts about music and culture. Some of those are conveyed on his hilarious Twitter, and some trickle down into his work writing on New Girl and Broad City, on which he also stars. Still more thoughts show up in his regular NYC cabaret show, Haunting Renditions, which blends comedy with a full band for Glazer’s swooning takes on everything from medleys of ’90s Nickelodeon themes to The Mighty Mighty Bosstones’ “The Impression That I Get.”

Seeing as how Glazer clearly has opinions on what pop songs are and aren’t the worst, we thought he’d make an excellent candidate for our HateSong feature. He did not disappoint.

The hated: Meghan Trainor, “No” (2016)

The A.V. Club: Why did you choose this song?

Eliot Glazer: As a musician and someone who’s always been somewhat of a music nerd, I really enjoy music criticism and thinking about pop music in a cultural context because pop music is so malleable. I find that fascinating. I think it’s always interesting to watch trends, too.

When I look at Meghan Trainor or I listen to her music, it feels so specifically like a very blatant rip-off of Amy Winehouse, like the worst possible version that you could ever imagine of Amy Winehouse. Amy was so legendary, and she created this retro appreciation for artistry via Adele, ushering in the age of the English bombshell. And there was Duffy. Everyone forgot about Duffy. But Amy Winehouse really carved that niche out.

Meghan is so insipid. Her music is so insipid that, to me, all of it sounds like Kidz Bop, but we already have Kidz Bop. They don’t need to do anything to make it sound more grating. All they have to do is swap out her vocals with, like, 10 kids, and it would be the same thing.

“All About That Bass”—I understand why that was catchy and why that became a hit. It worked, and the video was fun to watch, and it was the perfect storm of cutesy elements. But continuously she drives me nuts, and her subsequent songs have been so grating. Each one is more obnoxious than the next.

It’s just elementary to me: She’s such a lowbrow dum-dum. Honestly, the worst part about it is she’s just young enough. I think that she thinks that she’s providing some sort of empowering message. When you listen to her lyrics, which aren’t that deep to begin with, you realize the brand of feminism that she’s selling all tends to fall on the approval of men and her obsession—not an obsession, but a real fascination with the perfect boyfriend or whatever. I thought we were over that, you know? I thought Spice Girls and Christina Aguilera and The Pussycat Dolls buried that empty feminism and we’d graduated above that to Solange or Beyoncé or whatever.

Meghan Trainor is just terrible. She really is a reminder that it’s still possible for the patriarchy to take control of the White House, the way that her brand of watered-down feminism can still be equally as powerful as it was when the Spice Girls called it “girl power.”

AVC: This is supposed to be her “girl power” song. This song is supposed to say, “I don’t need guys.”

EG: Right, but everything up to this point in her other songs has been her singing about what boys want, what boys like, and what your mama taught you.

This song, first of all, is just aggressively stupid. She’s honestly aggressively stupid.

The most annoying thing about her, and there are so many annoying things, but one of them is that she named her first album Title because the record company said, “We need a title for your album,” and she said, “Oh,” like, “tee-hee-hee-hee, let’s just name it Title.” What a ridiculous decision. It’s such a dumb and empty decision to make about something that will ostensibly be your legacy. That lack of taste I find so repugnant.

The thing that drives me the craziest about her and makes me really dislike her across the board is what she sounds like when she’s giving interviews. I’m a big Howard Stern fan, and he interviewed her, which was the first real time that I’ve questioned his judgment recently. That was a real bummer for me. He doesn’t have the greatest taste in music, but it was such a weird booking for him to act like Meghan Trainor is worthy of an interview. Because if you listen to her talk, she literally uses a blaccent in the way that she speaks. She’s been criticized for doing that in her music already—

AVC: Wait, what does she do?

EG: She uses a blaccent. She uses a black affectation in her rapping and in the way she speaks, but especially in interviews. What is that voice? She’s from Nantucket. She’s speaking like someone doing a bad impression of a soul man. It’s so crazy, and it’s so gross and offensive. There have been a bunch of think pieces that I’ve read to validate my frustration with her because I find her to be like a gnat. But that blaccent that she uses is so transparent. It really is actually offensive. It adds insult to the injury that already comes with her making music that’s a really poor, poor rip-off of Amy Winehouse retro. For her to speak in this cadence is just so gross.

I can’t help myself, but I really do love think pieces that point out the hypocrisy of her music and the tasteless way she repackages… I don’t even know what you’d call it. People call it a “blaccent” online. They went after Miley Cyrus for appropriating black culture in her music years ago, and Meghan Trainor just does the same thing. I think it’s even more offensive. From song to song, to me, she gets more and more offensive, but it’s on a song like “No” where you just can’t believe how insipid the lyrics are and how little taste she has, how she doesn’t seem to have any discerning taste when it comes to music or lyrics. “My name is no”? What are you—? I don’t know, she drives me nuts.

AVC: She seems to be doing some sort of Missy Elliott-type patois at some point in “No.”

EG: That’s you being very generous to her. It sounds like she’s a racist person doing an impression of a black person. She sounds like your middle-aged bachelor uncle doing a really bad impression of Denzel Washington. It’s like, “What are you doing? Where did you pick that up? Why are people letting you get away with that?”

There was a whole article that MTV.com did about how, at the very beginning of “No,” she makes some sort of noise or she abbreviates a word, and the whole article is about how if you step back and look at what she’s doing, it’s actually a really offensive version of re-appropriation, and I think I find that in that song, but I find that in all of her songs. They’re all, in a way, a poor impression of something else.

AVC: Maybe she’s very smart, but if she is, she’s letting herself be manipulated.

EG: No, she doesn’t seem like a smart person. That’s another reason why it annoyed me that Howard Stern interviewed her, because he delves really deep with his guests and happens to be a great interviewer. Whether or not you like him, he really is a great interviewer. And there’s not much there. There’s not much for him to dig up with her there because she’s kind of dim. She’s also so young that the whole thing was so strange for me. He’s talking to a kid who happens to be a decent enough songwriter that she can cobble together some sort of easy jam or whatever to listen to.

Her music to me, again, is music that you play at a children’s birthday party. The fact that she wants and expects to be taken seriously by adults is bananas to me. She should only live on Nickelodeon and that’s it. She’s so gross. She truly gives me douche chills.

AVC: In her defense—and this is a very loose defense—she is 23, and we were all idiots when we were 23 years old.

EG: That’s absolutely true, and I completely agree with that. I guess that’s why I’m apt to say that I don’t like that she exhibits this authoritative voice when it comes to feminism because it’s so poorly done. Please don’t speak for anybody else.

AVC: She does that thing—like you said about “girl power”—where it’s like, “This is for women,” or “Let’s talk about size.” It’s this surface affect on everything. It means nothing.

EG: Just saying “my girls” or the simplicity of saying, “I put my girls first,” it seems so archaic. It seems like an idea that died in the mid-2000s, because ultimately, we gained a little more taste and stopped buying what The Black Eyed Peas were saying. We matured a little bit. So for her to come along and sing these shitty sock hop ditties about her girls and her booty, I don’t buy it, and I find it to be so repulsive. I do think it’s inauthentic, and maybe that’s a reflection of the fact that she’s so young, but 23 is not 7. Her music has the intellectual capacity of a 7-year-old.

AVC: This is a pop song. Does a pop song have to be deep, or can it be total garbage? Is Meghan Trainor’s just the wrong kind of garbage?

EG: Pop songs can absolutely be total garbage. Sometimes that’s what makes the best pop music, at least in my opinion—when it’s true garbage. That is literally what I do with my comedy, where I’m repackaging dispensable pop songs as orchestra masterpieces, but in parody or as a satire of the real thing. She’s not. All of her songs are about her being authoritative in a way that adds an element of expectation from her in her music, and I think it just rings so tasteless that it really does color the whole song in a way that makes it more complicated than just being a trashy pop song.

I don’t think she’s a bad influence, per se, but I think in a world where feminism needs to be taken seriously, in the wake of the election and how we felt such a blow to the cause when everything shifted, at that point, it does more harm than good to have a singer who I’m pretty sure also doesn’t like the word “feminism” tell little girls how to act. It’s so without any nuance, and it has no ramifications.

To me, it’s just lazy. Her message is so lazy and poorly thought-out that I guess it is important, when you think about it, at least in terms of what feminism is now. When you compare her to someone like Solange or even someone like Beyoncé, you can see the clear-cut differences in how Solange and Beyoncé both are so unapologetic and so militant in being intelligent. They’re smart. They’re looking at everything in a macro sense. Meghan is just this—I don’t know, she’s like a doodle. I don’t even know. I’m stuttering, but her music drives me insane.

Also, she named her album Thank You? Jesus, how could a creative person be so anti-creative, be so anti-intellectual, that her first album’s called Title and her second album is called Thank You? It’s like she’s writing a school play or something. It blows my mind.

AVC: She has brown hair now, so she’s a totally serious adult.

EG: Very serious. Also, her new video for the Smurfs song or whatever, she does that thing that I thought we were over where she paints herself as “one of the boys” and puts on a football jersey and the football player eye stripes. It’s like, “Really? I thought we were over this.” I thought we all realized that saying you’re “one of the boys” or saying “girl power” are these empty gestures that align yourself with straight dudes. I thought we were over that. I thought we’d gotten over that hump.

She is just another version of that, barely repackaged. It drives me crazy.

AVC: Because she’s so popular, she’s going to encourage more artists like her. We’re going to get more Meghan Trainors down the road.

EG: If you listen to her—not just her lyrics—but if you listen to her conversations, she acts arrogant, which I don’t really buy. What’s that song? It’s called, like, “Me.” I forget the lyrics.

AVC: “Me Too.”

EG: “Me Too,” yeah. Something about, “If you could you’d want to be me, too.” No we wouldn’t. You know we wouldn’t. You know nobody wants to be you. We all know it. You’re taunting us. She’s taunting you to call her a name, and that isn’t authentic, and it’s so dense.

AVC: She has the confidence of a 23-year-old white person from Nantucket.

EG: Exactly, a 23-year-old from Nantucket is not necessarily the person I want to be. Sure, she’s rich. Great. What else? She has zero taste. That’s what I find so fascinating about her. She has zero taste—and Brooke Hogan has zero taste, but we had that. That came and went. Meghan Trainor not only has no taste, but she writes terrible basic bitch sock hop stuff and somehow manages to stick around. It’s crazy. And I hate so much that the clip of her falling on The Tonight Show was so funny. I don’t want to laugh at anyone else’s pain, but oh, my god. That was a transcendental moment for me.

AVC: She doesn’t write her songs, in her defense.

EG: But she does write the songs.

AVC: She does? I thought this one was written by some guy. [Checks.] Oh no, it was Trainor and two dudes. I always wonder how, when people say something like, “Britney Spears is a writer on this song,” did she actually write it? Or was she like, “What if I went ‘uuuh’ here?” and that yields her a writing credit.

EG: I think it’s pretty notorious in the industry—again, I don’t know for sure, this is just from what I’ve read and heard—but I think it’s a pretty infamous thing to have an artist claim songwriting credit for just jumping in here or there. I don’t think they have to add very much to get a credit on a song that’s written by a bunch of people. Maybe I’m speaking out of school. I honestly don’t know for sure. But with Meghan Trainor, I know she actually is a songwriter.

AVC: That’s jarring.

EG: Yeah, that’s why it’s jarring. Sometimes you see these producers who step away from behind the board and take center stage, like The Weeknd or Frank Ocean or Carole King, and their raw musicianship is so impressive, and it becomes almost a story of valor in that they were able to find their place as a performer and be lauded for their creativity. And she’s such a flat version of that. I think that’s why I find it so annoying.

AVC: I’m looking on her Wikipedia page right now and it says, “Common themes in her lyrics include subjects of modern womanhood, body image, and empowerment,” which is the least descriptive word.

EG: Don’t you feel like we went through this period that started with Christina Aguilera singing “Beautiful,” when the word “empowerment” was actually introduced into the lexicon through pop music, but it never really had the heft of anything beyond saying, “My girls and I go out and I’ve got my girls’ back.” I mean, that’s great. That’s a great place to start. But someone needs to sing about it with a more sophisticated view where we can understand that it’s actually important and not just a party favor. Her version of feminism is just a party favor. It’s a thing to rhyme words about. It feels like she’s never read a book about feminism in her life. And maybe that’s being 23, but also: Stop. Stop and write songs about jelly beans or something.

AVC: Who are we to give advice to Meghan Trainor, but if you had to give advice to Meghan Trainor, what should she do? How can she get better?

EG: I think if she leaned into some level of authenticity and really thought about what she has an interest in and an opinion about, then that might change and make her more interesting. I am a huge devotee of Robyn. I grew up listening to her music, as a lot of us did, and it was dispensable but such memorable Swedish pop. And then she sort of disappeared and then resurfaced as this incredibly complex, meta, self-reflective, and cerebral anti-pop version of herself where she was self-funding her own music and was away from the recording industry machine that she found so oppressive. When she reappeared, her website was really interesting and her look was really new. She, to me, is a version of somebody figuring stuff out quietly and then resurfacing with a genuinely different voice and a genuinely different sound that really channeled a level of creativity that she needed the time to build. That, to me, is what’s remarkable about her, aside from the fact that I love her music and I love her aesthetic and I love the stuff that she comes up with. She seems to have done it right.

There are even more accessible pop stars who do the same thing or do some version of that, and it reflects a genuine creativity. And yeah, maybe it’s the fact that she’s 23, but if she stopped and actually thought about what she could offer or what she could say, maybe the music wouldn’t be so insipid. But it all falls under the rubric of dumb Kidz Bop sock hop shit and that will always, always, always make my skin crawl.

I don’t know what advice to give her there except, “Stop making pre-Kidz Bop Kidz Bop.”

AVC: Sia would be another example of people who have gone away a little and then came back really strong, artistically. Carly Rae Jepsen, too.

EG: [Carly Rae] is really incredible and still so underrated in so many ways. She’s so creative, and she’s so collaborative. Same thing with JoJo. JoJo also is a phenomenal singer who had some really fun, catchy pop songs when she was a kid and then figured out how to do her own thing. I don’t think she’s much older than Meghan Trainor per se, but she has such a unique, creative sound and figured out the right way to channel her talent that it’s just remarkable, and it earns her the fandom of sophisticated music fans.

I would be interested in hearing Meghan Trainor’s music, because I don’t think she can’t write music. She can certainly write music, and she has a good voice. If she figured out a way to do it that was more genuine and less of this schlocky minstrel shit, maybe it could actually be good.

Did you ever hear her song called “Dear Future Husband”? What kind of feminist writes the most heteronormative—forget about feminism, this is the most heteronormative backwards shit. It’s sort of what boggles my brain about the show The Bachelor, which I literally—look, I have friends who watch it, some who watch it ironically and some who watch it for real, and I truly cannot wrap my head around what the deal is on that show. I don’t get what they’re doing there. I don’t get what the goal is. Are they there to get paid? Do they want to get married? Why would they want to get married to a dude they just met? To me, “Dear Future Husband” is a totally musical version of The Bachelor. I don’t even understand what’s going on because it’s so heteronormative I can’t even understand it. I truly can’t understand how simple it is and how dumb it is and the dumbness that it encourages in its listener. She is purely that for me. “Dear Future Husband” is—shut up. Just stop talking about your “future husband.” It is so obnoxious. I don’t care what gender you are. I don’t care who you want to date. But writing this wish list to your future mate, it gives me douche chills.