|"All About That Bass"||"Anaconda"|
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The year was 1992, and our collective culture was nothing short of up-ended by the first rapper from Seattle to get a number-one hit. That rapper was Sir Mix-A-Lot, and that hit was "Baby Got Back". And with the success of said song, the very definition of beauty changed. For the first time in recent history, it was considered cool to have a wider waist measurement. Then again, that paradigm shift was intertwined with an element of female objectification. Its greater message can best be summed up as, "Ladies, don't feel bad just because you don't fit the traditional, size-0 definition of female beauty. You, too, can get laid! Specifically by me." So perhaps "Baby Got Back" was a little bit janusian (a word I just invented to describe something posessing two or more conflicting qualities, and a word which I expect to use a lot more often on this blog, so take notes) in its approach. But I like to think it got hit with some bolt of mental lightning, or some other paranormal affair took place, because the spirit of that song has split up into a good and a bad side, and each side has inhabited the souls of two songs released in close proximity over this past summer.
In this corner, we have "All About That Bass", the debut single from the young singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor. And in this corner, we have "Anaconda", the latest hit from a more established leading lady, rapper Nicki Minaj. As both songs seem to posess the influence of "Baby Got Back" in some form or another, I saw fit to pit them up against one another. One of the questions I will be asking is, how do these songs utilise the power bestowed upon them by "Baby Got Back"? I'll start with "All About That Bass", and I'm happy to state up front that Meghan Trainor chose to take the message of that song, trim out the more sexualised parts, and re-package it for a younger crowd who may have insecurity about their body image. And just as Sir Mix-A-Lot opened his song with a solid declaration we all know and respect, "All About That Bass" hits close to that mark as well:
I think it's pretty clearMeghan Trainor's body is not totally trim. And yet she is happy, if not for it, then at least despite it. So tell me, what other points do you wish to bring up?
I ain't no size 2
But I can shake it, shake it
Like I'm supposed to do
I've seen those magazinesWhy yes, Sir Mix-A-Lot also made reference to the tendency of popular media to present the skinny body type as what we ought to look like. And kudos to miss Trainor for updating this accusation, by pointing out that said images are out-and-out faked. But then again, she also has a tendency to get catty about the other faction:
Them pictures Photoshopped
We know that [noun] ain't real
Come on now, make it stop
I'm bringing booty backI wasn't aware that booty left in the first place. The world has changed since 1992; it's true that the messages that spurred Sir Mix-A-Lot to write his plea for big-booty rights haven't left, but in the intervening time we've been exposed to so many booty jams that we've accepted the alternative just as well. I suppose that when it comes to starting a revolution, one can't make a proverbial omelet without breaking a few eggs. Even Sir Mix-A-Lot expressed displeasure with those whom he called "knock-kneed bimbos walking like hoes". But by striking a blow for one demographic, you end up alienating another. What about those girls who are underweight and on the verge of anorexia? How do you think they'd react?
Come on and tell them skinny [noun]s that
And no, I ain't no stick-figure silicone Barbie dollBut at least this time, she's accounting for taste! Fellas, if your taste in women precludes her body type, then you have obviously been corrupted by the system -- sorry, I meant to say, at least she recognises your demographic and is willing to give you an out. Oh, silly me, I haven't discussed the chorus yet. It's just one repeating line, which goes thusly:
So if that's what you're into, then go ahead and move along
I'm all about that bassAnd get this -- during the chorus, the treble track does, indeed, drop out, leaving us with the bass! Huh, get it? Meh. I approve of this song in principle, don't get me wrong, but for some reason it just didn't click with me to the point that I'd want to buy a copy. Maybe miss Trainor's not dynamic enough of a singer, or her producer not interesting enough of a beat-maker. Maybe I'm concerned at how she burns as many bridges as she builds. Maybe it's because of the obesity crisis these days that I wonder how far a song like this might be interpreted by those who could seriously do to lose a few pounds purely for their health's sake. Or maybe I'm just feeling a little jaded at the moment. Regardless of whatever my misgivings are, I will support Meghan Trainor in the face of whatever controversies she may -- nay, will encounter as a result of "All About That Bass". Because you know what the media is like these days.
'Bout that bass, no treble
Meanwhile, in terms of "Anaconda", I can guess the thoughts that crossed the mind of Nicki Minaj (or in actuality, the males controlling her life and image): "You know what's easier than making some positive, revolutionary statement about female sexuality? Exploiting it!" Now, "Anaconda" does indeed evoke "Baby Got Back", but in a more direct manner. Namely, it samples the song's melody for much of the song, albeit with a smattering of random indistinct noise layered atop to ruin the track, as seems to be de rigeur with pop production these days. And the chorus is just a sample of Sir Mix-A-Lot saying, "My anaconda don't want none if you ain't got buns, hon'". So if I were to compare the hooks of these two songs, "All About That Bass" would take that category by default, solely by virtue of Meghan Trainor singing it for herself. (To be fair, there's a second part to the chorus where Nicki speaks a different line from "Baby Got Back".)
So, is there any originality whatsoever withing "Anaconda"? Of a kind, actually. Each of the two verses are short stories about different men Nicki, or her character, has had sex with, so at least it's an idea beyond the typical bragadoccio. For example:
Boy toy named TroyOh boy, placing drug dealers upon a high pedestal. The more things change in the rap game, the more they stay the same, I see.
Used to live in Detroit
Big-time dope dealer
He was getting some coin
This dude named MichaelHey, wait a minute! If you're not comparing mister Michael's meat-and-two-veg to something as awe-inspiringly big as the Eiffel Tower, than what, pray tell, are you comparing it to? Then again, exaggerated metaphors and similies are part and parcel of the rap game, so for all I know, you might want us to have some even bigger tower in mind. Which there are, mind you. And besides, having a "disco stick" the exact size and shape as the Eiffel Tower would cause more problems than you'd be led on to believe.
Used to ride motorcycles
[noun] bigger than a tower
I ain't talking 'bout Eiffel
Sorry for digressing, I was supposed to be talking about Nicki's sexual exploits. With her being the song's protagonist, one would hope to learn a reason for her doing so. Typically, the act of sex is depicted as being desired by the male more than the female, but with the focus being from the female's point of view, we finally get to learn what she wants out of it. And that "it" is... getting the male to buy her fancy clothes and/or shoes.
Bought me Alexander McQueenYou can say that again. *sigh* You had a chance to revolutionise this aspect of sexual relations, and you chose to blow it on shallow materialism. Nicki, I am disappoint. As am I equally disappointed in how she performs much of the song in her singsongy airheaded "rapping" ("Harajuku Barbie", I think she calls it), as opposed to straight-up singing or her more intense rapping style, which does show up in this song, but too little and too late. And I am just as equally disappointed, perhaps even more so, in the lack of lyrical content present. At the end of the second verse -- 1:44 into this 4:28 long song -- there are no more new parts to be found. Just more repetitions of the bridges and chorus, and an unsettlingly long ad-lib section where Nicki throws about random shout-outs involving her [noun]s, their fat [noun]es, and/or the mother[verb]ing club in which they may be found.
He was keeping me stylish
And when we done, I make him buy me Balmain
I'm on some dumb [noun]
You may think that Nicki Minaj is more qualified to stand up for big butts than Meghan Trainor, as evidenced by the single artwork which I decided to censor. But she doesn't do anything with her role; instead she seems content to wallow about the female version of the common rap subjects. Instead, this song may cause more harm than good, because even though a female is calling the shots when it comes to her sex life, in the end it's all about straight-up materialism. And the music video is even worse in that regard, as virtually every dance move employed by Nicki and her entourage is distressingly dorsum-centric. Attention everyone involved in the next rap music video: would it kill you to put some focus on a different body part for a change? Listen, I'm not trying to be some "stop having fun" guy. Not all songs need to change the course of history, "Anaconda" certainly has a right to exist in this world. But for a scene in desperate need of an image change, this is just not the kind of song I was hoping for.
|"All About That Bass":|
Lyrics: 4 out of 5
Music: 4 out of 5
Performance: 4 out of 5
The Call: 4 out of 5 (B)
Lyrics: 1 out of 5
Music: 1 out of 5
Performance: 2 out of 5
The Call: 1 out of 5 (F)