Treat Myself wants to be a balm for those struggling with body-image issues, self-esteem issues and relationship issues.
Let’s pretend for a second that the merit of music has less to do with the actual music being played and more with the tangible good it does. Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” has saved lives and as such is revered as the greatest song of all time. Lizzo’s empowerment anthems have translated into the across-the-board critical raves she wants. This is the universe in which we’re reviewing Meghan Trainor’s Treat Myself. It still comes up pretty skint.
Treat Myself wants to be a balm for those struggling with body-image issues, self-esteem issues and relationship issues. One hook just goes “Love yourself,” over and over again. Another goes, “If you don’t like me, it’s not my fault at all/ It’s just another opinion.” From “Workin’ On It:” “Tryna see what you see/ When you look at me/ I’ve been working on it.”
This is all good and fine, except that Treat Myself has a weird masochistic streak that’s never properly reconciled with its message of self-love. “Here to Stay,” crafted as a sweet, old-fashioned R&B song, describes a relationship where “I fall apart in front of your face/ But you think it’s cute, you make fun of me”—as if that’s a healthy dynamic on any planet. On “Lie to Me,” she begs her lover to at least lie to her that he still loves her, because “I can’t take the truth anymore.” Wouldn’t it do more tangible good to inspire her listeners to take charge in situations like that?
This isn’t the only song that contradicts this humanistic message: On “Genetics,” she tells us that she looks that good not because she worked for it but because she was born that way—as in, no, you can never be as hot as her, so you might as well suck it. It’s already weird before the Pussycat Dolls literally come in to spell out the title with a cheerleader chant, like something out of Starship Troopers.
There are some curious ideas about human behavior on Treat Myself. She talks a lot about acting “crazy,” asking us to blame her “evil twin” for her transgressions, declaring “I’m crazy but I’m nice” on “Blink.” But it’s hard to tell if she’s using “crazy” as shorthand for the flaws we all have or if she’s asking us to accept them as intrinsic to our awesome selves, something to be celebrated rather than something to work on.
There’s always something a little off about this album. When Trainor simpers in harmony with the album’s two male guests, who seem cut from the same chunk of putty as Charlie Puth, it’s like those scenes in Blue Velvet where everyone talks in unnatural white-bread clichés. The gospel choirs are so compressed as to sound uncanny; it should come as no surprise that Trainor has visited Kanye’s Sunday Services.
Does any of this matter if someone listens to Treat Myself and feels a little better about themselves? If that’s true for you, Trainor’s done her job. But I’ll have done mine if this review inspires you to keep looking for the self-help pop album you deserve; trust me, it sure ain’t this.