Takin' It Back (Deluxe)
There are many moments on Takin' It Back when it seems clear where Meghan Trainor is takin' it back to. There’s the cheeky use of The Chordettes' 1954 classic "Mr. Sandman" in the opener, "Mother." She inserts girl-group panache into "Don't I Make It Look Easy," and the title track has a jazzy, brassy bounce. From the outset, it’s clear that the music on Trainor's fourth album shares the crafty intermingling of pop elements past and present that made her debut, Title, such a charmer. Yet, as much as she delights in embracing the retro-loving sensibility she exhibited in her days as a music-world ingenue, Trainor knows she's not the same person she was in 2015—and she's not afraid to show it. The intervening years have given her a wealth of experience and wisdom, especially after she became a mother herself. An enjoyably snarky riposte to the people who told her having kids could hurt her career, "Mother" lets her doubters know exactly what they can do with "all that mansplainin'." An exuberant return to the doo-wop/pop/hip-hop confections she popularized with "All About That Bass," "Made You Look" is grounded in her effort to rebuild her confidence and love her postpartum body. "Yeah, I look good in my Versace dress," she sings, "but I'm hotter when my morning hair's a mess." It can feel as if Trainor's combining and juxtaposing her various selves at different life stages, a quality that gives Takin' It Back an emotional richness that's as potent as the songs' many musical virtues. There's also a sense of lived-in authenticity to such songs as "Bad For Me," a soulful duet with Teddy Swims that explores the push-and-pull dynamic in a family relationship gone toxic. She's at her most vulnerable on "Superwoman," a country-tinged ballad in which she reflects on the challenges of fully accepting herself as well as the pressure she feels as a mother to keep "smiling through the pain." And while such subjects may result in heavy fare when handled by other artists, Trainor's enduring love of bright, melodic songcraft means there's always some sunshine to be found.