Lord, we’re about to hear “ME!” for the rest of our lives, aren’t we?
That was the first thought that popped in my head when I made chose to break my post-Endgame haze and listen to Taylor Swift’s new single. It’s her first single since 2017’s Reputation, a commercially successful but creatively disappointing record that took her post-Kim Kardashian feud darkness to its logical, self-serious extreme. Perhaps in response to the relatively lukewarm reception (it yielded only one Grammy nomination), Swift appears to have hit the reset button for her upcoming album, casting aside the shadows (and Reputation’s frequent drinking references) and going back to basics.
The basics for Taylor Swift are self-referential and self-aware lyrics lined with internal and external adoration, paired with the kind of production that you resent yourself for humming along to after the song is over. By that scale, “ME!” might be one of her best lead singles yet. Swift trades out the grim synths and toothless barbs of “Look at What You Made Me Do” for bouncy marching band pop and frothy lines about how awesome she is to be in love with, despite how much trouble she can be. If “Blank Space” rode through a football field made of cotton candy on the back of a unicorn, that is what “ME!” sounds like. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds, and just as delightful. The song finds a charming medium between the winking dark humor of “Blank Space” and the silly insistence of “Shake It Off” (which I actively dislike but still know all of the words to; see above). “ME!” is nowhere near as clever as the former is (the questionable “spelling is fun” lyric in the bridge negates that instantly), but it embodies the latter’s spirit while leaving behind its annoyances.
Joining Swift on this clarion call is Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, an odd choice on paper that, with his trademark angst-tinged earnestness, somehow works pretty darn well. They sound like they’re having an absolute ball, and it’s a mood that emanates through the speakers. It’s been a long time since Taylor Swift sounded like she was having real fun, without the baggage of celebrity, or celebrity boyfriends, or celebrity feuds. “ME!” is a deeply silly song that some will argue is beneath her (and they be right, even though “Shake It Off” still exists), but it’s hard not to at least appreciate its weightless charm.
So yes, we’re going to be hearing this song in every film trailer and light sports montage for the next two years, but at least you won’t resent yourself for humming along. That’s a win in my book for Taylor Swift.