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Top 40 Philosophy: Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”

Posted in Friendly Philosophy, Music, and Top 40 Philosophy

In this, the second installment of “Top 40 Philosophy,” we turn to this week’s #2 song on Billboard’s Hot 100: Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass.”

Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” video seems to have been inspired by White Christmas. But this video is an homage to Hairspray.

Lyrically, the song belongs to the “body positive” genre, which began (in its current incarnation) in 2001 with Destiny’s Child’s “Bootylicious.” Trainor’s song, however, owes as much to the message of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.”

Both “AATB” and “Born This Way” assert that everyone is perfect just the way they are. In both, furthermore, a woman sings about her mother’s advice.  In “AATB,” however, the mother supports her claims by appealing to the desires of men. One reason not to be be concerned with your weight, the mother says, is that men actually prefer weightier women.

“What’s philosophical about this?” you ask. “The issue of perfection,” I reply.

One branch of philosophy is called “value theory.” If something is perfect, we assume it is valuable. In fact, “perfect” implies “completely valuable,” or “couldn’t possibly have more value.”

But what is the standard of value?

  • Are things valuable just because people value them (e.g., is a female body type valuable because it’s the type men prefer)?
  • Are things intrinsically valuable (i.e., would they have value even if no one liked them)?
  • Does each person or thing get its own standard of value (e.g., might something be good “to me,” even if it is not good “to you”)?

We philosophers trace these questions back to Plato, but I think they go back even further.

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