For reasons surely connected with my ingrained tendency to want to make myself suffer, I listen to a lot of people who compile worst-of collections for the music of this year. Some of the various commentators base it purely on personal standards, and some limit it to those songs that Billboard has collected for its top 100 singles of the year. Now, a lot of the music from this year has come under criticism because it is nearly universally recognized that this year had horrible music. There are a lot of people, myself included, who are somewhat dreading the task of recapping the year because it was not a very good one. At any rate, while there are some artists who have come under criticism, one artist more than any others for this year appears to be the subject of intense loathing, and that artist is Meagan Trainor. Over the course of listening to various worst of collections, she is one of the only artists who is included almost always for at least two of the singles that she had over the course of the year-No and Me Too being the most heavily criticized.
While I have had occasion to reference Miss Trainor before , like most people I have done my best to avoid listening to her. At first I thought she was trying to be funny with her various pseudo self-empowerment anthems where she tried to overcome fat shaming, told off cheating boyfriends, or gave unwanted advice to her dear future husband. Perhaps some people were offended with her from the start, but I thought her tongue was lodged at least somewhat in her cheek with her early efforts. By the time she started making terrible music with the likes of Charlie Puth (“Marvin Gaye”) and came out with her second album with equally terrible music that someone seemed less funny and more self-aggrandizing, the charm had worn off for me, and was definitely a factor in encouraging me to listen to more audiobooks and less of the terrible music that glutted up the radio waves this annus horribilis. In fact, in my life this year was certainly less horrible than many others, it just seemed as if the world around was so horrible that it overwhelmed what was by the standards of my life a fairly ho hum and average year, although to be fair the average standard of my years is not particularly high.
At any rate, back to Meagan Trainor. What is it about her music that makes her so universally loathed? Not since Nickelback has it been this trendy to make fun of an artist that had so many hits. As someone who tends to consider myself the subject of fairly intense fear and loathing , I often seek to understand what it is that makes someone hated. Nickelback was somewhat easy to hate because their music was somewhat sludgy and because they sang with absolutely no sense of fun whatsoever and took themselves entirely too seriously. Meagan Trainor seems to have the same problem in that when you look at her existing body of work as a whole, she comes off as a better-than-you social justice warrior of the most irritating kind, the sort of person who would write a tell off song of someone simply for trying to politely chat her up. As someone who tends to be fairly friendly to anyone who happens to be around me, since for personal reasons I cannot bear unfriendliness within my immediate personal orbit, I find it particularly offensive that someone would consider mere friendliness to be offensive. When people are too easily offended at the world, it is easy for the world to be easily offended back. This would seem to indicate that among the best ways for an artist in our contemporary period to gain some good will (see Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space”) is to have at least somewhat of a sense of humor about oneself, as an awareness of our own ridiculousness helps make almost any other personal weakness or rough edge go down easier.
How do we apply this lesson in our lives? Obviously, few people like the outrage culture that now exists . People who spend their lives expressing their disdain and viewing themselves as both morally superior and personally unpleasant are not the sort of people who are able to befriend enemies. Many of us make enemies or rub people the wrong way or make bad first impressions simply because we are awkward and somewhat odd people whose ways of thinking and behaving are not always easy to understand and appreciate. Yet deep down, I think most of us would want to be able to get along peacefully even with people who for one reason or another did not agree with us about something. I know I would, and I know plenty of other people who want to be able to get along even in a world as divided and combative as our world is, and who grieve over the nastiness that goes on around us. And yet while it is trendy to make fun of people like Meagan Trainor, it is less amusing to look at her not as a sign of the apocalypse but rather as a sign of the times. People become popular for a reason, because the way they view the world resonates with others. We therefore ought to be aware of pop culture not because it is something important, but rather because it is a window into the longings and frustrations of others. We do not have to like what we see, but we should at least be willing to examine what it is that makes terrible art so popular, so that we may at least to deal with those realities that we happen not to enjoy.
I originally ended my reflection with the preceding paragraph, but during the course of the day I thought of another reason why we ought to do our best to overcome the sort of conflict and enmity we have. It has gotten to the point where we cannot even keep track of the deaths that are going on around us. If there is one area where this has been a horrible year for myself and for many others, it is the frequent reminder of our mortality in sudden deaths. Whether I have looked to my own circle of acquaintances or I have looked at the world of popular culture, there has been so many deaths and often so suddenly that it has been impossible to keep up with them. As I would reflect upon one life that had touched me in some way another person would die while I was still catching up with what had already happened. A lot of people just want this year to end–musically speaking as well as all of the other ways it has been a horrible year for many people. Let us not waste our opportunity to reflect upon what went down and to do better, to spend less time making war with those around us and more time appreciating the time we have to spend, for it is all too brief and passing.
 See, for example:
 See, for example:
 See, for example: