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I have come across the song "About that bass" by Meghan Trainor, and was wondering what "bass" and "treble" mean in the chorus, which goes:

Because you know I'm all about that bass, 'Bout that bass no treble

Pairing with treble suggests a musical meaning (low pitch vs. high pitch - treble), but it doesn't fit the song at all in my eyes, so I was wondering if those two terms have another (slang-ish?) meaning here, which it is and how it came about. Anyone knows?

  • Listen to the rest of the lyrics (or do a lyrics search and read them) and see if you can figure it out. IF your next question is "New (slang?) meaning of junk?" then you're on the right track. – Jim Nov 17 '14 at 19:08
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    Bass is the low end, treble is the high end. What's at the low end of a woman's torso? what's at the high end? I don't think there's any special etymology here, just an observation by the lyricist and a pun. – Jim Nov 17 '14 at 19:13
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the interpretation of song lyrics. – FumbleFingers Nov 17 '14 at 21:02
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    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about the interpretation of song lyrics. – tchrist Dec 5 '14 at 0:50
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    I'm pretty sure it's because the proper onomatopoeia for a big butt is boom, and the bass goes boom. – Gerger Dec 19 '14 at 19:16

11 Answers 11

4

bass is being used metaphorically to refer to the buttocks. I think the juxtaposition of bass and treble refers to the clefs in musical notation: the bass cleff is on the bottom, the treble cleff is on the top, and bottom is another euphemism for the butt, while top is often used to refer to a woman's breasts. And the low and high tones can represent the physical locations of these parts of the body.

I'm not a student of current slang, so I don't know if this is common or introduced by this song.

  • Note: "top" and "bottom" in a piano two-line score or in a score for a choir. – MickG Nov 17 '14 at 19:23
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    Probably not about top and bottom as the active and passive party, respectively, in gay sex, though… – Janus Bahs Jacquet Nov 17 '14 at 19:33
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    @JanusBahsJacquet I think not. The song seem to be more in the vein of "I Like Big Butts" and "Milkshake", objectifying female anatomy. – Barmar Nov 17 '14 at 20:09
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"All About That Bass" is about the attractiveness of full-figured women, to whom bass clearly applies here. The song and its music video emphasize "booty" (large hips and buttocks), so we might suppose that bass = booty; i.e., lower notes correspond to the lower body.

I would offer a different interpretation, however. If bass corresponds to the lower body, then treble must correspond to the upper body--but since women with large hips tend to have large bosoms as well, why would Meghan Trainor sing that she's "all about that bass, no treble"? I believe, therefore, that bass and treble correspond more closely to large people and skinny people in general, in keeping with the hoary comedic association between fat people and tubas and similar slapstick gags.

But of course the real explanation is that it doesn't really need an explanation, because we all pretty much got the idea right away, didn't we? Chalk it up to artistic license, and always remember that every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top.

  • Maybe possible, since the video frequently shows plus-size girls and an overweight guy when she sings "all about the bass". But when I listen to the lyrics as a whole, I can't help thinking she's talking about the body parts, not the body types. – Barmar Nov 17 '14 at 20:15
  • @phenry she did say she's "no size two"… how big is that? – MickG Nov 17 '14 at 20:37
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According to Trainor herself, it's a reference to the difference between the shape of a bass and treble guitar. A treble guitar is about the same width on the bottom and the top, while a bass guitar is much bigger on the bottom. Thus it's about having a big booty.

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Per http://www.rollingstone.com/music/features/how-meghan-trainor-became-2014s-most-unlikely-pop-star-20141027:

My producer Kevin [Kadish] had the title "All Bass, No Treble," but he hadn't figured out what to relate it to. And I was like, "What about booty?"

So the association was indeed coined with that song, indeed after the title had already been arrived at in the brain-storming that went into the song-writing.

  • Yay! Actual data! – Spike0xff Feb 15 '15 at 0:26
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After Listening to another one of her songs I have come to the conclusion that she is most likely referring to "bass" as her lower half (meaning not just her actual bottom but the vagina as well) or base, which really makes "treble" then stand to reason to be referring to oral sex. She is all about that bass meaning she prefers to have sex and "no treble" would mean no blow jobs. So the song may sound more like "I'm all about that sex, bout that sex, bout that sex, no blow jobs" If not for the clever wording. If you think that this is a ridiculous assumption just go listen to "Lips are moving" and see if you can't make the same conclusion.

  • Link to lyrics. Indeed, in that song, it is pretty evident that bass is sex. No treble in there either :). – MickG Dec 29 '14 at 22:40
  • I think both meanings coexist, since dat boom boom seems to refer to sex, but boys they like a little more booty to hold at night is explicitly referring to the buttocks. – MickG Dec 29 '14 at 22:42
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I thought that she was meaning: All about that bass (I care what men find attactive) No treble (I don't care what women think of my body). Clearly she beleives that men like curves. I have not seen the video, my opinion was formed strictly on hearing the song.

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I think the meaning is simpler than we all speculate. Bass and treble are both musical instruments with the bass having a larger bottom end than its top end, while on a treble both ends are quite the same size. By bass, Meghan may be referring to women with large hips and bottom, and by treble to women where these body parts are not standing out. I might be wrong of course.

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    You're wrong about musical instruments. A bass recorder doesn't have a larger end (it's cylindrical), and a treble saxophone does (it's basically conical). Instrument shape is what timbre depends on; pitch depends on length. – Andrew Leach Feb 3 '15 at 9:42
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It seems that Meghan had explained a little bit about the meaning to Billboard.

“You know how the bass guitar in a song is like its ‘thickness,’ the ‘bottom’? I kind of related a body to that."

Here's the link where I found it.

What Is 'All About That Bass' Even About?

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In music composition typically the bass cleft line is used to write music for the tuba, baritone, trombone, etc. and the treble cleft line is use to write music for the clarinet, flute, etc. and hence this song appears to be looking at body type not necessarily a part of the body. A person versed in only treble would not only have to overcome the challenges of learning how to play the new "bass" instrument but at the same time how to make something happen using bass cleft music. The lyrics seem to be about appreciation using bass and treble as metaphors for body types; and express a sentiment that I support!!

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It is about the shape of the instruments.

The format of a double bass (acoustic bass or upright bass) is reminiscent of a woman's silhouette.

Contrast it with a treble refers to the treble flute, i.e. only as treble. The most common flute in conscert orchestra.

  • An interesting theory, but to make it an appropriate answer on StackExchange, you'll have to support it with external evidence (e.g. a recognized authority putting the theory forth). – Dan Bron Jan 22 '15 at 14:19
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I don't really even know if I should wrote this as an answer, but it's something I've actually thought about before reading your question so I had to take the opportunity to say it since it's likely the only time I'll run across people getting deep about this (admittedly not-so-deep) song.

WWhen I first heard the song, it of course opened with her saying the phrase in question. Having heard nothing of the rest of the song yet, I initally took it musically. It is a common thing for people to say they are "all about that bass", to where the phrase is almost like a sample, except there's no actual recording where someone said it that everybody knows and uses. So, I thought nothing much more about it than just the appreciation of a familiar sample used well. Until she's like "no treble". People dont really say they're not about treble, just that they're all about bass. I initally took it as her just saying that in an extension of being all about bass, while attempting to be witty/cute. To myself, I thought, "no treble? That's stupid and makes no sense if you think bout it, since there's not much bass in the song really anyways" Once I heard the rest of the song, I realized that she probably meant her butt, but then "no treble" made absolutely no sense. I never even thought about breasts or the upper body, I was just like, "what the heck is she talking about; treble?" I started to feel like she was just simply guilty of just saying "no treble" because of how shes all about bass and treble is erroneously thought of as being the counter or opposite to bass,( like how capitalism is errobeously considered the opposite, or counter, of socialism), and that pissed me off a bit to where I'm thinking "whats wrong with treble? Im all about bass, but treble has its place." Hahaha. Upon deeper and more thourough analysis, I have come to the conclusion that she perhaps thought of it originally as a knee-jerk response to saying she's "all about that bass" (while writing the song i mean. FYI, her and some other guy wrote this song together somewhat quickly, starting from something she had previously wrote or some idea she had had. Yes, i actually spent time researching this...) She might have been thinking of bass in terms of meaning booty at first, but once she said "no treble" and liked it, bass as booty leaves the meaning of treble somewhat unclear. So, whether that is how it happened or not, I believe she has decided that bass and treble refer to large and skinny body sizes, respectively. When she says she is "all about that bass; no treble" she is referring to herself and speaking as if to a potential "love interest" and saying something like, "I'm a big girl; you ain't gonna find no skinny bitches here."

The song plays around with "hating" on skinny chicks, calling them bitches then saying she was just kidding, then starting to talk "shit" by starting with "I know you think you're fat" and even though she just did it, you don't think she's joking again and dont expect her reassurances of how it is a given that "every inch of u is perfect"

But yeah. She means bass to mean big, large, etc and treble to mean thin, skinny, etc. But she also thinks of it as referring to booty, specifically a substantial booty. In this regard, she is not thinking of a treblethat refers to the body part which is the counter or opposite of a butt, whatever that would be.

protected by tchrist Feb 9 '15 at 21:43

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