How many new things can be said about Christmas? Does a good Christmas album even try? Good luck getting any answers out of Meghan Trainor’s 18-track Christmas slogging A Very Trainor Christmas. It’s bad pop music, but with a Christmas theme — so is being bad pop music a problem?
It seems that Trainor, being the hit-maker she is, reckons she has a crack at the next big Christmas miracle — artists aiming for their own “All I Want for Christmas is You” swing year after year and inevitably miss. That tinge of arrogance permeates the album as she does the dance between holiday classics and original songs she swears are worthy — a necessary evil of Christmas music that makes it so hard to get right. The aforementioned Mariah Carey song is kindly left off Trainor’s menu, however, only because “My Kind of Present,” “Christmas Got Me Blue,” “My Only Wish” and “I’ll Be Home” are all desperately trying to justify its absence. Three key changes by six songs into the album and these efforts are painful.
Then, “Christmas Party” happens. Trainor leads strongly with the refrain, “Let’s have a Christmas Party/ Invite everybody.” It goes without saying, but that’s not happening this season. This track sums up the album pretty well: Trainor invites everyone to a Christmas party that is not happening. But if it were, her cases for going are an “Amazon gift card” and “Eggnog” by the lyrics, paired with another key change. Maybe only the moment renders this song inappropriate, considering the holiday does come every year, but Trainor makes a futile investment in a future where this song will be forgotten too hard to ever see the party happen.
One song’s lyrics even keep offensive language referring to Inuit people. “The Christmas Song” includes the line “folks dressed up like Eskimos.” Chalk it up to relatively innocent ignorance, maybe, but “Eskimo” is widely considered a racist slur. With so many songs available to choose from for this record, this song’s inclusion is careless.
As for the production, Trainor has her pop cliches covered: thumping beats, soft plucking, light bass drops, some meager piano, snaps, hi-hats a little too squeaky clean and even an “Inception” horn heard on “I Believe in Santa” — which actually sounds quite epic. When given a solid foundation to build upon with the Christmas classics, Trainor hits more often. “Last Christmas” in particular sees Trainor harness retro charm with an infectious, relentless synth bass line bound to get the head nodding. Of course, not ruining a good song is one thing, but as Ariana Grande ruined the same song a few years ago, the case for the Trainor Christmas starts to look more appealing.
A Very Trainor Christmas would be better if it just sounded more Christmassy. There’s a dissonance between the “Trainor” and “Christmas” parts of the title — most of her offerings, minus the cliche Christmas lyrics, are straight-up pop bangers with, at most, some bells. “Naughty List” has a fun, tropical vibe, but would feel more at home on the pop radio airwaves in July. The covers are doing the seasonal spirit heavy lifting, but not just because of familiarity — on the others, Trainor just does Trainor.
All being said, this is a Christmas album. The 18-track length means that those who throw this on repeat as background fodder for Christmas festivities will start to hear repeated songs at around the one-hour mark, and after five hours will be right there with Trainor singing “Christmas Got Me Blue.” Then the final track “Silent Night,” thoughtful as it always is, reminds the party that this season is still somewhat about Jesus — why dunk on Jesus? If Christmas is all about those moments of collective resignation to jolly — giving in, relinquishing cynicism, finding hope in a savior to many — then A Very Trainor Christmas will be had.
So no, it does not matter if it’s bad. Meghan Trainor’s faulty Christmas album is highly unlikely to ruin the holiday this year.
Contact Lachie Wappet at [email protected].