The music video for “ME!” Taylor Swift’s first single off her upcoming seventh studio album, opens with an iridescent snake (maybe a cousin to the darker reptile that was used to announce her last record, 2017’s reputation). Within seconds, the snake explodes into a swarm of butterflies, which anyone who has taken an elementary English class could identify as a metaphor; while reputation Taylor may have killed off the “old” Taylor, it seems that we’ve reached a third, final boss Taylor. She’s nearing 30-years-old, and she’s into pastels, butterflies and having fun. Who are we to stop her?
If you listened closely to reputation, this shift in persona shouldn’t be a shock. On “End Game” and “I Did Something Bad” Taylor plays the villain, a “bad one,” as she refers to herself. Deeper into the tracklist, however, is “So It Goes,” where she assures whoever she may be singing to (her boyfriend? Fans? Dianna Agron?!? All up for debate) that she’s not a “bad girl.” CONTEXT CLUES… continuity… Taylor Swift!
In the weeks leading up to the release of “ME!” it became evident that the tides were changing. Swift’s Instagram feed, which had maintained an uncharacteristically dark tone throughout the reputation era, began to look like someone who bullet journals threw up on it; hot pinks, palm trees, butterflies… most of which were, in true Taylor Swift fashion, hints at new music.
Fans of Swift (or “Swifties,” if you want to go there) were sent into panic-mode, however, shortly before the single’s release last Friday, when a couple of less-than-desirable facts leaked about the song; that it was a collaboration, with Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco, and that it more than likely contained the lyrics… “you can’t spell awesome without me.”
In the catalog of Swift, the person who’s penned lyrics about getting called up again just to be broken like a promise, mosaics of broken hearts, and nightmares dressed as daydreams, the cliche term usually used to bolster a child’s confidence seems out of place.
But on “ME!” that’s exactly what Swift has set out to do. Describing the song as one that is not meant to be “taken seriously,” lyrics like “Hey kids / Spelling is fun,” and “There is no I in team / But you know there is a me,” make a bit more sense; as Swift put it, pop music has the ability to get a message stuck in your head, and she wants that message to be one of giddy self-love, the kind that you may not have experienced since the innocence of childhood.
The apparent immaturity of the song also makes more sense when considering Swift’s history of lead singles; 1989, one of the best pop releases of the decade, was first introduced to the world with a song boasting lyrics like “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” Red, which is considered Swift’s lyrically strongest album, kicked off with “We… are never, ever, ever / getting back together.”
Believe it or not, talented women ARE allowed to have fun. Just like Justin Timberlake did on “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” a song that is pulling a lot of comparisons to “ME!” and, in case you forgot, a song that made a ridiculous amount of money.
As a personal fan of both Taylor Swift and having fun, I quite enjoy “ME!” Based strictly on production, it’s a perfectly fine bubblegum pop track. The brief vocoder intro (a la “Delicate” or “Getaway Car”) cannot be overlooked, nor can the genius use of marching band style brass to really drive the melody home.
You may have noticed I have yet to mention Brendon Urie’s role in the song, because Brendon Urie’s role in the song doesn’t necessarily need mentioning. Urie is definitely talented, and the song definitely only works as a duet, but the pair seems a bit too out of touch for it to work. It doesn’t NOT work… but it doesn’t WORK.
Though “ME!” isn’t the strongest song in Swift’s discography, my faith in her upcoming album remains intact. And in the off chance that said album follows the same formula as “ME!” I will be happily seated at the summer tour surrounded by predominantly children.