Listening to Meghan Trainor, it is hard to believe she hails from Nantucket, Massachusetts. It is easy to believe, though, that she only recently turned 21. The Grammy-nominated pop singer and songwriter gushes with youthful exuberance over the phenomenal success she has had in the past nine months. Indeed, 2014 was quite a year for Trainor. Though she had been writing songs since she was 11 and attended Berklee College of Music summer programs during high school, it was a publishing deal signed with Big Yellow Dog Music just after her 18th birthday that would really get things going. The independent music publishing company sits on the famed Music Row in Nashville, Tennessee — a place about which many young songwriters have only dared to dream.
With Big Yellow Dog behind her, Trainor released two albums (I’ll Sing With You and Only 17), moved to Nashville, attended songwriting camps, and, eventually, landed some cuts with other artists. It was during one of those writing retreats in 2013 that Trainor teamed up with songwriter/producer Kevin Kadish. They ended their day having penned “All About That Bass” and the rest, as they say, is history… though still in the making. Trainor recalls their very low expectations for the song: “We kind of just laughed and said, ‘Ain’t nobody ever gonna hear this because there’s no artist that can cut this right now.’ It was so specific and our goal, as songwriters and producers, was to get a cut, get a single, because that’s the only way we can make money nowadays and survive. So, this song, we were like, ‘I know we’ll never make any money, but at least it’s a fun song.’” Even Big Yellow Dog did not understand what they had in their hands. “My publisher was like, ‘This is awesome, but what do you expect us to do with it?’” she laughs.
They all figured it out pretty quickly with the help of L.A. Reid who signed Trainor to Epic Records after hearing her demo of the tune. Throughout 2014, “All About That Bass” was about as ubiquitous a song as it could be with performances and parodies galore. By the end of the year, the pastel-drenched video had been viewed in the neighborhood of 400 million times. “I remember five million views was ridiculous. RIDICULOUS!” Trainor enthuses. “My stomach always drops when I hear the news. I’m like, ‘Oh, gosh. People are watching me try to dance. That many people… yikes!’” That many people watching her try to dance pushed the tune to the top of the charts not just in the United States, but also in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and 10 more countries, as one of the best-selling singles of all time.
But all that success can not, of course, come without a decent amount of push-back. While most people rightfully interpret “All About That Bass” to be about positive body image, a vocal minority latched on to two words — “skinny bitches” — while dismissing the rest of the verse as the contextual setting in which Trainor explicitly says, “No, I’m just playing. I know you think you’re fat, but I’m here to tell ya every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.” The singer sees the backlash play out in real time on her social media sites. “Every Instagram comment, every time I put up a picture, it’s paragraphs of people fighting each other like, ‘She’s bashing skinny people.’ And the others are like, ‘No, she’s not. If you would just listen to her lyrics…’ I didn’t put out a song to hate on a person. I don’t know who would do that, especially not because they’re skinny. That’s ridiculous,” she contends.
Being everything to everyone is a lot of pressure to put on a pop song, especially one written with good intentions and even better hooks. “I think it was too big of a song. It beat so many records and got nominated as a first single. It was like a Lorde story and they had to find something wrong with it because they couldn’t handle it,” Trainor explains. “That’s what we all do. Every time I hear something that’s amazing, I’m like, ‘Wait a second. What’s wrong with this thing?’ Then I’m like, ‘Okay, I love it.’”
Trainor, herself, has not escaped judgment, either. In case there was any doubt, sexism and misogyny are alive and well in America. Everywhere she goes, Trainor says, people are “checking me out to see if I got that ‘boom boom that all the boys chase’ and ‘all the right junk’ at the places. Everyone looks at me. It’s weird. Everyone’s checking me out, but I can’t get a date. What’s up with that?” Some folks do more than just check her out, though. Somehow, they feel permitted, if not obliged, to comment on her physique. “Nowadays, they’re saying, ‘She’s not even that fat! Why is she talking about this?’” Trainor continues, “Some people wish I was bigger. When they meet me, too, they’re like, ‘You’re too small!’ And I’m like, ‘Thank… you? Sorry I’m not eating enough for you.’ I’m pretty content with my body. I like it.”
She is also pretty content with her career. For the better part of 2015, Trainor will tour behind her Title release. Her first-ever headlining run sold out pretty quickly, proving that she has what it takes to do this whole music thing. “That’s the last step, I’m pretty sure — you can be an artist with a hit song, but can you sell tickets? So that was a blessing,” she says.
One of the shows she’ll play is the Black Party during Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs, California, in early April. With a couple of Pride performances under her belt, Trainor is excited to hit the Dinah. “I did a Gay Pride thing in Atlanta and I was doing soundcheck when all these lesbians came up and were loving me. I think they were just hot for my dancers,” she muses. “The best, too, is when I do a Gay Pride show and do my song ‘Dear Future Husband’ and they all go, ‘I’m your future husband!’ I love it! It’s so awesome.”
This article originally appeared in Curve magazine.