Though she’s changed her hair color and updated her sound from retro to dated, Meghan Trainor continues to peddle a myopic, commercialized brand of feminism on her sophomore effort, Thank You. Lead single “No” masquerades as a suffragette’s anthem, espousing the almighty power of “no” as if mercilessly rejecting an unsolicited suitor were the ultimate expression of female agency, while songs like “Watch Me Do,” “Me Too,” and “I Love Me” are vacant exercises in positivity, confusing delusional self-importance with self-worth. “Woman Up,” a rewrite of a 2014 song by former Pussycat Doll Ashley Roberts, abandons the original’s characterization of a powerful woman as a “survivor,” a “fighter” who lives by her own rules, and swaps it for one who merely “don’t need a man.”
In her attempts to capture the girl-power theatrics of early-aughts Destiny’s Child, Trainor also misguidedly rehashes that era’s urban-pop production, all chintzy beats and grinding synths. And though lyrics like “I go straight to V.I.P./I never pay for my drinks/My entourage behind me” might have worked for Beyoncé or Britney at one point in their careers, they feel contrived coming from the lips of an artist with such a wholesome, good-girl image. (Trainor cringingly—or is it brilliantly?—rhymes “besteses,” “breasteses,” and “exeses” on the otherwise catchy “Watch Me Do.”)
When Trainor finally gets down to earth, as she does on the Caribbean-inflected “Better” and the Carly Rae Jepsen-esque “Champagne Problems,” it feels like we’re catching a glimpse of the real Meghan, but these songs are simply padding between tracks in which she boasts about how awesome it is to be her (even her mom and friends are better than yours!) and ones where she wonders why she’s still single. One or two of these songs might scan as tongue-in-cheek; nearly half an album’s worth is a form of caricature, paying lip service to a millennial generation raised on hollow self-affirmations.