Review: Taylor Swift’s new song ‘Me!’ is nowhere near as smart as she is
So — not a country song, then.
In the breathless run-up to Taylor Swift’s new single, “Me!” — which debuted late Thursday on streaming services and as part of an elaborate music video on YouTube — the singer’s social-media clue-dropping led many to predict that Swift had returned to her roots for the follow-up to 2017’s polarizing “Reputation.”
There were homey images on Instagram. There was a fan event in Nashville. And most of all there was the idea that Swift was in need of a reset after her last album’s harsh textures and harsher attitude turned off some. (“Reputation” went triple platinum — great for anyone besides Taylor Swift, who’s accustomed to bigger numbers.)
But though “Me!” does mark a turn, it’s hardly the back-to-basics effort she seemed to be teasing.
Produced by Swift and Joel Little, who’s known for his work with Lorde and Khalid, “Me!” is a sunny electro-pop duet with Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco in which the two singers promise each other that neither of them will ever find another like … well, you can figure it out.
It’s got blaring horns and a booming beat and densely layered backing vocals; it’s got a breakdown with some sporty chanting à la Gwen Stefani in “Hollaback Girl.”
What it doesn’t have is Swift’s typical smarts.
Far more thinly imagined than usual, these might be her weakest lyrics ever. “I’m the only one of me / Baby, that’s the fun of me,” the chorus goes, before turning the line around minus the kind of clever tweak she’d once have made: “You’re the only one of you / Baby, that’s the fun of you.”
Worse is that breakdown, in which Urie (who co-wrote the song with Swift and Little) tells us, “You can’t spell ‘awesome’ without ‘me.’”
This from the woman who wrote the staggering “Dear John.” Maybe she avoided country music because she knew she’d have to bring better words.
“Me!” is especially disappointing because it comes just as Swift is expressing herself in new ways — namely politics, which she’d carefully avoided in the past. Last year, she threw her support behind two Democratic candidates for Congress in Tennessee, and recently she wrote in Elle about the responsibility she feels to speak out against “disgusting rhetoric.”
Nothing about this song advances our thinking about Swift like those actions did.
The music video, which Swift co-directed with Dave Meyers, is more fun; it starts with a happily laughable scene featuring Swift and Urie yelling at each other in terrible French accents, then explodes into a series of pastel-hued fantasy sequences.
And though the singer hasn’t revealed anything about the album “Me!” presumably leads, history suggests she might be unloading its crummiest song first (as she did with “Shake It Off,” from “1989,” and “Look What You Made Me Do,” from “Reputation”).
Perhaps there’s hope for what’s to come — country, pop, whatever.
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