Ian Streeter ‘20, Social Media Manager
After nearly two years of delay, Meghan Trainor has finally released Treat Myself, her third studio album. Compared to her 2015 debut album, Title, which reached #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart and her 2016 sophomore album, Thank You, which reached #3, Treat Myself has underperformed, debuting at a measly #25. How did Trainor transform from one of the biggest new things in pop music to a fad of the past within just five years?
In order to answer this question, it is important to understand the background of Trainor’s career. She was an indie artist from 2009 to 2013 and was widely unknown by the general public during that time period. However, she gained a surge of popularity after signing to Epic Records in 2014 and releasing “All About That Bass,” which made rounds due to controversy surrounding its lyrical content and a debate as to whether its message was fat-positive or anti-skinny. This, along with its general catchiness and its musical allusions to 1950s doo-wop, helped propel it to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for eight non-consecutive weeks in the last few months of 2014. Trainor was furthermore successful with songs such as “Lips Are Movin” and “Dear Future Husband,” both of which contained a similar throwback sound to “All About That Bass”, but she continued to be primarily known for that song, and it was for that reason that Title instantly became one of the most successful albums of 2015. Later on in that year, “Marvin Gaye” with Charlie Puth and “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” with John Legend became successful singles for Trainor.
In 2016, she released the singles “NO” and “Me Too” as part of her sophomore album, Thank You. While both songs were successful, they were a diversion away from the throwback sound of Title despite still retaining some elements of it, and they underperformed, as did their parent album, which was only the 45th biggest album of 2016 while Title was the fifth biggest of 2015 according to Billboard. The reason as to why Thank You underperformed in relation to Title is likely that Trainor had garnered the reputation of “the person that made ‘All About That Bass’” and not much more, meaning that the immense success of that song was sure to guarantee her a few more hits off of name recognition alone, but the general listening public would inevitably grow tired of her sound over time.
This brings us to Treat Myself, which the song “No Excuses” was released as a lead single for all the way back in 2018. In keeping with the downward trend of Trainor’s success that she had already been experiencing from 2016 on, “No Excuses” failed to produce any sort of significant chart success, not even reaching the top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to the previously mentioned factors, it was also not helping that with this single, Trainor had now diverted completely from her old throwback sound. In other words, one of the main facets of appeal for her earlier music was completely gone. This was the same case for the follow-up single “Let You Be Right,” which not only did not chart at all but was completely excluded from the Treat Myself track listing. When you have two songs this unsuccessful, it is very easy to fade from public consciousness within a short timespan, so the way that Trainor could have minimized this effect was by releasing Treat Myself very soon after those two singles, but due to wanting to add more songs, she delayed it two years back.
As a result, Treat Myself has performed even worse than it arguably would have otherwise. Obviously, artists should be able to wait as long as they want to release an album, and Trainor’s career is not completely dead in the water, but it should be stated that of the possible explanations for Trainor’s failure to replicate her previous success, the delay of Treat Myself could potentially be one of them.
Though the lackluster performance of Treat Myself has come as no surprise to some people, such as senior Clark Callander, who said that he has not heard a song by Trainor in “a long long time,” some people wish she was still as successful as she used to be, such as senior Amanda Liss, who said: “Her music bops and I miss it.”
Ultimately, it seems like what has happened is that Trainor has become the type of flash-in-the-pan artist that is not exactly a one-hit wonder but does not have enough defining characteristics of an artist to remain a durable figure in popular culture for an elongated period of time. Treat Myself has still performed better than most artists could even dream of doing themselves, and the situation could overall be far worse for Trainor than it actually is—it simply needs to be discussed why some artists do not have lasting effects while others do.
Photo courtesy of pitchfork.com