When it comes to a singer, I promise that you’ll never find another like Taylor Swift. Starting out as a humble country girl with a thick country accent singing country songs, morphing into America’s sweetheart performing characteristic country-pop ballads, and finally emerging as a full-fledged pop diva in a snakeskin bodysuit, Swift has a distinctive music style that is unparalleled by her fellow award-winning musicians. As someone who has been following her since 2012, I hold mixed feelings every time she releases a new single in the recent years.
Right after I finished listening to her newest single, “ME!”, I couldn’t get it out of my mind. “ME!” is composed of simple, easy-to-remember lyrics and it’s catchy as hell. It is one of those songs that you’ll hum for the rest of the day after hearing it only once. For an extra point, it also features the charming Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco. For an extra extra point, its accompanying music video is funny, creative, and endearing to watch as well. The first thing I noticed was the song’s colorful, flowery visual, which is a stark contrast to the bleak black-white-red theme of Swift’s previous album Reputation. Gone are the black smoke, sequins, and studded snakes; in their place stand cotton candies, rainbow umbrellas, and candy-colored snakes. This time, Swift is spreading a message of self-love and acceptance for being “the only one of you”, instead of urging her fans to look what her haters made her do. Instead of cursing her lame lover, she reconciled with him in this video. “You might be ‘a handful’, ‘a psycho on the phone’, or a troublemaker, but that’s what makes you, you, and there’s no other you in this world — what’s cooler than that?” is more or less the message this song wants to deliver. However, do all of these combine to make “ME!” a great song?
Looking back at how Swift used to be a timid, bullied girl in her 2006 eponymous album, it’s amazing that now she can shout “You can’t spell ‘awesome’ without ‘me’!” with confidence. Despite all of these positive vibes, though, I feel that “ME!”’s lyrics still lack the qualities I used to admire in her older songs. It isn’t difficult to like “ME!” — in fact, it’s really easy — and the lyrics are fun to bop to, but that’s all there is to it. The message is very straightforward and it’s not something you can make a lengthy analysis of. Compare that to, say, for example, my personal favorite song, “All Too Well” from her 2012 album Red. Many might find it boring at first (myself included), but once you go into the lyrics, you can feel the song’s depth and Swift’s personal emotion when writing and singing the song. Still, I wouldn’t say “ME!” sounds exactly unoriginal either — it’s still very “Taylor” in many ways except her old way. The catchy-but-shallow lyrics and the high production visuals drown the candid qualities that used to distinguish her from other mainstream singers. I could imagine other pop artists creating a song similar to “ME!”, albeit in a slightly different fashion.
In “Look What You Made Me Do”, Swift declared that “the old Taylor is dead”. After the release of “ME!”, people started speculating that the old Swift might rise from the dead after all. However, rather than the old Taylor, the Swift in “ME!” looks more like another new version of her: one who is kind and funny, one who adores cats and wordplays, but one who is a superstar instead of a girl at home. I respect Swift’s decision to experiment with her music, but perhaps deep inside I wish she had never shed her naive, modest self, and her raw, simple music. One might argue that she is the epitome of a plain girl being spoiled by the entertainment industry, or simply a teen girl growing up into a woman. Regardless, “ME!” is a perfect reflection of Swift: its honest lyrics, creative twist, and whimsical video are definitely hers, but the flavor is different.