For the past seven weeks, the Number One song in the U.S.A. has been “All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor’s catchy pep talk for those who don’t have model-skinny bodies. Trainor, who grew up in Nantucket, Massachusetts, had long aspired to a career in music – but she always thought it would be as a songwriter, not a singer. Now, the 20-year-old Trainor, who is brash enough to refer to herself as “M-Train,” is also modest enough to say of hitting Number One, “It’ll be OK if it never happens again.”
Her label Epic Records, however, very much wants it to happen again, so on a hot Tuesday in Los Angeles, an army of filmmakers descends on an abandoned downtown movie palace to shoot the video for Trainor’s upcoming single, “Title.” Because Trainor’s version of feminism is roughly the same as that of Sixties girl groups like the Shirelles, the song is about making sure that a guy you date gives you the title of girlfriend. Trainor, wearing a sparkly dress and a lime-green fake fur, winningly lip-syncs her way through a ska-inflected bridge while flanked by hunky guys with sashes (the video’s concept is a “Mr. America” pageant).
Between takes, Trainor is surrounded by hair and makeup people, blotting sweat and adjusting every loose strand of blonde hair. “It’s a thousand degrees in here,” she says during a break, “but I look good and I smell all right.”
What was the spark behind “All About That Bass”?
My producer Kevin [Kadish] had the title “All Bass, No Treble,” but he hadn’t figured out what to relate it to. And I was like, “What about booty?” At the time, my slang was that I’d say “I’m all about that” about everything. Kevin grew up as a chubby kid too, so he totally related. We wrote it in 40 minutes, and we were just laughing while writing it. He was the one that wrote the “skinny bitches” line. And that’s when we said, “We’ll never make a dime off this. No one will like this, no one will cut this.”
You were looking for someone else to sing it?
We tried. Labels were like, “We love this, but what do you expect us to do with it?” But L.A. [Reid, head of Epic] was the first one to say, “Who’s singing it? Go find that voice.” I met his A&R guy Paul Pontius and I sang for him. A week later, I was in L.A. and I texted him, “Wanna get some coffee?” I was just making up stuff to get his attention. He was like, “Wanna play for L.A. Reid tomorrow?” All I had was my ukelele. I was so nervous, but L.A. was doing the shoo-wop-wops and dancing with me. Then they made me wait in the conference room for 20 minutes with no cell phone, and I almost killed myself. I thought I had screwed up my whole career. Finally he came back and said, “We got you a record deal, girl!” That was one of my goals. Even if I wasn’t a pop star, I wanted to at least say I got a record deal and I got dropped.
Do you think of yourself as thick?
I ain’t teensy-weensy, but I think I’m regular. One person wrote, “I really like your song, but I wish you were bigger.” Sorry, thank you. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not.