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Taylor Swift Me Song Review
Say goodbye to the snakes. After a 13-day, glitter-splattered countdown, the reptile finally exploded, bursting into a million pastel-colored butterflies to reveal Taylor Swift’s new single, “Me!”. The cut, which kicks off the 29-year-old’s seventh album cycle and features “Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco”—a confusing clarification as Panic! is now a solo project—dropped at midnight on Friday across all streaming platforms along with a Disney musical-esque video that sees Swift donning pastel power suits and princess gowns while Urie floats through the sky on an umbrella. “With a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads,” Swift said Thursday at the N.F.L. draft (????). “I just want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves, not worse.”
That’s nice in theory, but despite its bright horns and resounding “ooh-ooh-ooh-OOHs!” “Me!” falls flat, and even teeters on annoying. Swift is handily one of the most talented lyricists of her generation, able to spool memories of tiny moments, like slow dancing in the moonlight (“Tim McGraw”) or leaving a scarf at an ex-lover’s house (“All Too Well”), into universal anthems of emotion, but “Me!,” her first outing under a new recording contract with Republic Records, doesn’t show it. “Spelling is fun!,” Swift and Urie exclaim over a synth-lined marching band beat. “Girl, there ain’t no I in ‘team’,” he sings. “But you know there is a me,” she replies. Later, another lesson from the Kindergarten classroom: “You can’t spell ‘awesome’ without ‘me’!”
The two singers penned the track with Joel Little, who produced the song with Swift and has previously worked with TS-bestie Lorde, Khalid, Imagine Dragons, and more. But his other collaborations captured the musical zeitgeist of the time—Lorde’s moody, side-eyed social observations all but opened the door for recent breakouts like Billie Eilish while Khalid has become the voice for finding love in the digital age, and, like them or not, Imagine Dragons is one of the most commercially successful rock bands of this era. Meanwhile, “Me!” is comparatively woefully out of touch with the current landscape. In a time of extreme lyrical confession from artists like Ariana Grande and Alessia Cara or messages of self-love born from actual soul-searching reflection like Lizzo, Swift offers only a pandering, overly-simplistic fantasy.
Of course, being an extreme outlier doesn’t have to be a bad thing. On early albums, Swift was able to army crawl her way over to the Hot 100, capture it, and bend it to her will. She brought pop-country to the mainstream—together, Fearless and Speak Now launched 10 Top 40 hits while earning Swift six Grammys—and later, on Red, she made a swirl of roots, dubstep, dance-pop, and Brit-rock seem inevitable. When she abandoned Music City entirely and released 1989 in 2014, she refused the path of her new peers, like Miley Cyrus and Justin Timberlake, who were finding success by borrowing from hip-hop and R&B. 1989 was, instead, pure pop. (As she would say in interviews, it was inspired by the sounds of the Eighties, AKA, the Pre-Rap Age.) It worked. That era saw Swift land three No.1 songs as well as win Album of the Year at the Grammys.
But hip-hop’s influence didn’t fade in the years following its release (it remains the most dominant genre in America, today) and on her 2015 LP Reputation, Swift surprised with her sudden embrace of heavier basslines and programmed beats. And for the first time, it didn’t work. Not fully, anyway. The set, which largely oscillates between songs that bear witness to the singer’s then-newfound love with actor Joe Alwyn—“Dress,” for what it’s worth, is the best song that Robyn never released—and to her anger at perceived slights from the media as well as other famous people, failed to land an enduring single and was shut out of the all-genre categories at the Grammys.
While what’s in store for the rest of this rhinestone-encrusted period remains to be seen, “Me!” won’t offer the course-correction Swift desires. And to think that her legions of devoted fans will fall for it is to underestimate them entirely. Thank u, next.