Not since the Spinal Tap song "Big Bottom
" has such an analog been made between the low end of the audio spectrum and the rear end of a woman. Unlike the Spinal Tap song, however, Trainor is celebrating her own posterior in this track, making it a song about confidence and positive body image.
Raised in a musical family on the Massachusetts island of Nantucket, Meghan Trainor has been writing songs since she was 11 years old. After her family moved to Cape Cod, her parents built her daughter a recording studio, where Meghan worked on songs during her free time and also attended many music festivals throughout the country.
Meghan won the 2011 Sonicbids Tennessee song contest when she was 17, and got signed to a songwriting deal with the publisher Big Yellow Dog right out of high school. In 2013, Trainor's boss at Big Yellow Dog put her together with Kevin Kadish, a 42-year-old producer whose resumé includes songs by Jason Mraz ("Wordplay") and Stacie Orrico ("(There's Gotta Be) More to Life"). Trainor, whose early songwriting credits include co-penning "DJ Tonight" and "I Like the Sound of That" for Rascal Flatts' Rewind album, made an immediate impression on Kadish, and the pair bonded over their love of '50s music. After kicking around ideas for lyrics and music for a few hours, they had the song written.
Kevin Kadish had the title "All About That Bass" written in his notebook when he and Trainor started their songwriting session. Kadish always envisioned that title as a song about booty, but he figured it would be good for a male hip-hop artist - a club tune about looking for a woman with a good low end. When he mentioned the title to Trainor, however, she loved it, since she often used the phrase "I'm all about that ____" to indicate something she liked (e.g., "I'm all about that Chris Hemsworth," "I'm all about that burrito").
When Kadish said the title, Trainor came up with "I'm all about that bass," and Kadish added the rejoinder, "no treble." This got them started on the song, which they wrote from a female perspective with the bass as a metaphor for her proud booty. "Once we started writing it, I remember his smile when he said 'skinny bitches,'" Trainor told Entertainment Weekly. "That's when we looked at each other like, 'We'll never make a dime off this, but I'm fine with that.'"
After LA Reid heard this song, he signed Trainor her to his label, Epic Records, where she was able to release the tune as her debut single. "My publisher and everyone said, 'It's a great song but there's not a lot of artists who can sing this,'" Meghan recalled. "And that's when LA Reid heard it and was like, 'You are the artist. Be one,' and I was like, 'Alright! Let's do it!'"
When Trainor delivered the version she recorded with Kevin Kadish, Reid had the forbearance to leave the song intact instead of sending it out for tweaks and mixing. He knew that the version that blew him away just needed mastering, so that's all it got.
The song's music video features Vine celebrity Sione Maraschino busting some serious moves in the background. The clip was directed by Fatima Robinson, who also did Michael Jackson's "Remember The Time
" and Aaliyah's "Try Again
This song has a very retro feel, but incorporates many modern musical elements to keep it contemporary. The backing "shoo-bop" vocals, the tremolo-drenched electric guitar, piano, hand claps, saxophone and organ all harken back to a '60s girl group sound, but the song also contains electronic claps and a drum sound that is more typical of hip-hop. While Trainor's voice sounds like it would work on a 1963 single, her delivery is in the rap vein and the lyrics were certainly not suitable for that era (they didn't have Photoshop back then).
Kevin Kadish thought Trainor should be the singer on this track, but Trainor didn't think of herself as an artist and decided to shot it around. She couldn't find any takers - Trainor says the only interest came from one of Beyoncé's people, but it wasn't the right fit. Some record labels suggested making changes to the song to give it more pop appeal, but Trainor decided it to simply record it herself, at Kadish's urging.
When a songwriter is composing for another artist, she often puts herself in the mindset of that artist, which Trainor tried to do when was writing with her producer Kevin Kadish. When this approach failed, they decided to write something more universal. "I said, 'Man, it's hard to picture yourself as Rihanna and try to write for her. Let's just write a really good fun song for the world,'" she told Cosmopolitan magazine.
They decided to write "A big anthem that's about loving your body," which Trainor got going with the line, "It's pretty clear I ain't no size 2."
This was the first Hot 100 #1 to include the word "bass" in its title. The previous highest-ranking "bass" track was Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass
," which peaked at #3. Sadly, the Muppets favorite "Mr. Bass Man
" topped out at #16.
In a Songfacts interview with Kevin Kadish
, he talked about the controversy surrounding this song. "The whole thing got ridiculous," he said. "Critics tried to say the song was anti-feminist. What critics didn't understand was that the song was a joke. We weren't seriously calling people skinny bitches, but I don't know any girl who hasn't called another girl a skinny bitch. It was not body-shaming or skinny-shaming or whatever it was. Come on. It was ridiculous to put all that into it, but you know what? There's no such thing as bad press. I'm thankful for all their nitpicking."
Fittingly, the bass is very prominent in this song. It's an acoustic, upright bass, which adds to the retro nature of the track. When Trainor sings the line, "No treble," notice that the bass comes out.
Another clever play on the bass/treble bit: Trainor changes pitch when she sings the word "bass" and the line "no treble," making it lower for the bass and higher for the treble.
Meghan declares in the song, "Boys like a little more booty to hold at night." Speaking to The Guardian about the lyric, she said:
"I never had trouble getting boys in high school, and I thought it was a funny line. All my beautiful, popular, skinny friends had trouble finding a good dude, and I never had a hard time finding a dude to like me or text me. But as a songwriter, I was thinking: What can we use for the next line, after, 'My mama, she told me don't worry about your size?"
Two covers of the song also reached the UK singles chart at the same time as Meghan's original version. One by Power Music Workout was designed as a gym soundtrack and the other by YouTube star Megan Tonjes is an acoustic folk cover.
This song has a very unusual structure, with no bridge or intro. It starts right in with the chorus, then follows with verse-chorus-verse-chorus (B-A-B-A-B). There is a lot of variation within these elements, however, including little breaks to get from one element to the next. After Trainor sings the first chorus, the music comes out and a processed voice repeats the word "bass" five times, which leads into the first verse.
The second chorus is preceded by a powerful pre-chorus, which is the "my mama she told me don't worry about your size" part. This second chorus is just like the first, but Trainor closes it with a "hey!," before going into the last verse with the "Bringing booty back" line. The last chorus is then repeated three times, each time increasing in intensity. The last 12 seconds is devoted to the outro, where Trainor sings some random phrases before closing the song with a little laugh.
This was one of several songs and videos to enter the charts in the summer of 2014 which celebrated the natural beauty of women. Others released at the same time with a similar positive body image theme included Colbie Caillat
" and John Legend's "You & I (Nobody in the World)
." It was suggested this was a reaction against the perceived misogynist lyrical content of tracks like Robin Thicke's 2013 hit "Blurred Lines
Notice how it's "mama" who says that boys like some booty to hold at night. This serves two purposes:
1) It adds to the retro feel of the song, since many tunes in the early '60s had lyrics about "mama" giving advice, the most obvious being "Mama Said
" by The Shirelles.
2) It shifts the statement away from Trainor, since it's not her taking this position, but her mother - she's just passing along the advice. This comes in handy when deflecting criticism that the song is degrading to skinny girls.
Meghan Trainor performed the song live for the first time
at an Emily West show in Nashville on July 16, 2014 when she was sitting in the audience and got called up on stage to sing. Kadish accompanied her on guitar for the performance.
Kevin Kadish told Elle magazine about one major artist who indirectly passed on the tune before Meghan recorded it. "Miranda Lambert heard the song before Meghan even had a record deal because my sister-in-law is married to Miranda's personal trainer," Kadish said. "Miranda heard the song over a year ago. And then when it came to the CMAs she was like, 'Oh! Let's do that song.'"
This spent eight weeks at #1 in the US. It was Epic Records' longest-running chart topper ever, surpassing the seven-week reigns of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean
" and "Black Or White
Data from Google searches indicates the booty did indeed come back in 2014. That year, in all 50 states, more searches were made for ways to make your butt bigger than searches to make it smaller, following a national trend that started in 2010. There was also a significant rise in searches related to big butts around this time, indicating that more women were looking to make their booties bigger, and more men were seeking it out.
This was the first single to enter the UK Top 40 based purely on streams. The track entered the chart dated September 28, 2014 at #33 a week before it was available for download or physical sale, after racking up 1.17 million streams. The rules had been changed to count streamed songs towards chart positions three months previously.
Kevin Kadish played the guitar on this track and programmed the bass and drums. He then sent the song to a New York musician named Dave Baron, who added organ, saxophone and piano. Kadish then did a final mix, using 33 tracks in Pro Tools, including 10 for backing vocals and one for the "bass, bass, bass, bass, bass" transitional effect after the first chorus, which he created by shifting pitch on a vocal sample. By hit pop song standards, Kadish kept it simple.
Trainor might not be a Size 2, but Taylor Swift is, and Meghan was able to knock Swift's "Shake It Off
" from the top of the Hot 100 with this track, which stayed at #1 for eight weeks, when it was bumped by... "Shake It Off," which returned to the top for another two weeks.
album also displaced Swift at #1 in America, taking the top spot from 1989
. Two weeks later, 1989
was back on top.
Kevin Kadish says this song will "sustain me for the rest of my life." When it took took off, he signed a lucrative publishing deal. The song isn't just a breadwinner though. "I talked to a friend in publishing and he said, 'It's not like you wrote the fourth single on Demi Lovato's third record,'" Kadish told Songfacts. "You wrote a song that changed the way little girls look at themselves in the mirror. This song will be a game changer for you."
The musical collective Postmodern Jukebox reworked this in a jazz styling as "All About That (Upright) Bass,"
with guest performer Kate Davis playing the upright and handling the vocals. It was posted on YouTube in early September when "All About That Bass" was still on the rise. It quickly racked up millions of views and drew a lot of attention to Davis, a newcomer who studied jazz at the Manhattan School of Music but aspired to be a contemporary singer-songwriter in the vein of St. Vincent. Many artists relish the publicity that comes with a viral hit, but Davis was turned off by the trolls and felt boxed in to the image she presented in the video. She ended up signing a record deal that didn't work out because the label wanted her to be a jazz singer and generate more viral hits. It wasn't until 2019 that she got clear of that contract and released her first album, Trophy
"That performance is just regurgitating all of the history of jazz music, but through a lens that isn't legitimate," Davis said in a Songfacts interview
. "I can play, I can do things that I've spent years going to college to perfect on a technical level, but there was nothing emotional or meaningful to me about it. I had grown so used to feeling like a performing monkey at that time, that I just went through the motions of it. Not to say that certain people weren't positively affected by it and that the response was unanimously good, but it lacks a substance that I think is really important for my own personal art and expression."