I’m going to just come out and admit it: I like Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass. It’s a happy-sounding, catchy song with a nice message, and Trainor certainly can sing. When the song came out last year, it caused a bit of a stir because of its theme of body-positivity and as a direct criticism of popular media and its emphasis on thin women.
However, it also had some criticism for its criticism of ‘skinny bitches’ and ‘stick-figure Barbie dolls’. Some felt that in its attempt to encourage acceptance and self-confidence for larger people, it also threw thin women under the bus in the same way that society has done for larger women for many years. Many also felt this was dissonant with the overall theme of body-acceptance; if the song is about body acceptance, why is it criticising people of a certain body type? I am not entirely sure how I feel about this argument, because thinner women are not criticised in the vast majority of media like larger women have been and so the slight criticism Trainor makes is not relatable to the overall hegemonic ideas of body size.
Criticism can also be levied at it in the way it frames women’s bodies. The song places an emphasis on having to be appealing to men with lines such as ‘boys like a little more booty to hold at night’. The song puts across this image that being attractive to men is just as, or even more, important than being comfortable in your own body. That’s where, of all things, Kidz Bop comes in.
Kidz Bop is a series of albums that feature kids covering popular songs. The lyrics are edited to be more family-friendly, such as removing swearing and sexual themes, usually resulting in a lot of mockery thanks to their forced nature. Naturally, because of the massive success of the original song, All About That Bass was covered… and at least in some respects, it’s actually better than the original.
While it still doesn’t completely solve the problems above, it does go a way to fix them. The mention of ‘skinny bitches’ is reduced to ‘skinny ladies’, an almost completely inoffensive alternative that doesn’t shame women for being thin to the extent the original lyrics seemed to.
More importantly, it takes those lyrics about being what boys like (‘boys like a little more booty…’) and places the freedom of choice as to what they do with their body firmly back to the girl with ‘don’t let it keep you at home in your room at night’. No longer is it about being what partners want women to be, but it is now about women being first and foremost comfortable with themselves.
This simple change of one line also reduces the heterocentrism that underpins the song; the assumption that all women even want a man is present in both songs, but is much less apparent in the Kidz Bop version.
Of course, there are still some lines which refer to this (‘’cuz I’ve got those dance moves that all the boys chase’), however these are not repeated throughout the song in the same way, nor do they place the responsibility of attracting a partner on the woman like the original lyrics do, and so I feel they have less of an impact. If you ask me, I’d consider the Kidz Bop lyrics a vast improvement over the original song. By no means perfect, but definitely better.
Now let’s find a way to get Meghan to sing these lyrics to something more than that god-awful low-budget backing music.
N.B.: I totally feel like some old, Christian grandmother by suggesting that the Kidz Bop version is better, and I’m 99% sure The Simpsons actually did a joke based on this… but when you compare them thematically it is kind of true. Also, being male, I will have a view of this song that women may not. Just, you know… by the way.