As soon as the strident, in-your-face beat of lead single "No" hits the speakers, 1 thing is clear: Meghan Trainor is wearing her take-no-shit-from-anyone aura with extra flair on album number 2. The doo-wop stylings of her debut album are mostly excised from the proceedings this time around. This is the album's biggest strength and weakness all at once. She avoids sounding like she went out of her way to simply re-tread what shot her to fame in the first place. That said, at times this album feels like she tried too hard to steer the sound away from her debut - almost as if she is now reluctant to dance with the one that brought her.
After the triple threat opening salvo of "Watch Me Do", "Me Too" and "No," Trainor calms things down a bit with "Better." Yo Gotti's verse seems a bit shoehorned in, but it fits the track, and overall gives a nice break from the frenetic tempo of the opening 3 tracks. "Hopeless Romantic" provides a firm reminder of what is sorely missing from this album. Trainor's father reportedly asked her why a few of his favorite selections from recording sessions didn't make the final cut, to which Meghan told him, in essence, that she couldn't make the album all ballads. "Hopeless Romantic" proves how well she can do with slower songs. Indeed, they are a refreshing break from the confident ice princess persona she blends into most of her more powerful tracks. "Kindly Calm Me Down" keeps this strong streak going, showing that even the super-confident heroine of "Woman Up" has her vulnerable moments. It shines musically, too - with a grandiose rise-and-fall dynamic that just begs to be part of a live set list, complete with an arena full of fans swaying along, singing along to every word.
Even as Trainor shows some vulnerability in places, it's enough to make the listener wish the album was a bit more balanced. There is nothing wrong with confidence and strength projected in song. Taken as individual pieces, most of these songs work well within that context. Stretched out over an entire album, it can seem like she's tilling the same ground over and over again, and makes her music sound a bit myopic. Her debut album worked the balance between empowering anthems and light hearted pop fun far better than Thank You does. Trainor mostly makes it easy to overlook these quibbles because of her personality, and the infectious energy she puts into all her music. Having worked with Ricky Reed as producer this outing, showing a willingness to step outside the box, one can't help but wonder what a Meghan Trainor + Starsmith produced effort might sound like (Starsmith being 1 of several behind Betty Who's stunning debut effort "Take Me When You Go.") Perhaps even a duet between the 2 singers. Any number of amazing combinations could be forged between Trainor and her contemporaries. Returning to "Thank You" to wrap things up - in spite of the subject matter tunnel vision on display in places, it is still a tasty pop-R&B treat, worth recommending to fans, new or old.