The extravagance of “Look What You Made Me Do” and its music video set a precedent, leaving fans expecting something equally groundbreaking to announce a new era of Taylor Swift music after Reputation. In the past months, Swift built up anticipation by introducing a countdown to the release date and commissioning a mural to hint at her upcoming announcement. Then, on April 25, “ME!” and the accompanying music video dropped.
“ME!” is Swift’s latest single, featuring Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie and presumably setting the tone for the singer’s next album. The song itself is a routine pop hit, with a standard happy beat and catchy chorus. It is structured very similarly to many of her previous hits — even the lyrics are generic, with Swift speaking to her lover and explaining that she is different from all of those other girls, promising, “You’ll never find another like me”. It is a song that addresses several other topics that Swift has talked about numerous times over the course of her career, such as self-love and acceptance.
As for the music video, the best thing that can be said of it is that it delivers the level of grandiosity expected after the spectacle of “Look What You Made Me Do.” Swift and Urie dance through a pastel fantasy land, floating among the clouds and stepping on rainbows. The snake from Reputation is present, but it is now rippling pink.
The video exhibits a performance of epic proportions, and yet it is rather underwhelming in the face of her other work. Previously, Swift established her genius in creating Easter eggs and double meanings in her art — but this music video lacks much greater meaning. It is a shallow performance and needs no more than a single listen.
The video’s failure to make any noticeable impact on the viewer makes sense with the necessary context. Like many artists, Swift uses her life to inspire her art, and the months leading up to “ME!” have, at least from the outside, been pleasant and uninteresting compared to other times in her career. In the year leading up to Reputation, Swift took a brutal hit to her reputation, and her album was a powerful response to how she had been treated. She earned back the respect and re-established herself as the queen of the game. Now, all she is doing is maintaining her throne.
This single paves the way for Swift’s next album to be a variety of happy pop hits, conceivably interspersed with a few acoustic love songs here and there. We will likely see a return to 1989-era Taylor, with upbeat hits and maybe even a diss track or two. By all indications, “ME!” sets the stage for an unmemorable album, one that will pander to her existing fan base but likely not be as earth-shaking for her career as Reputation was. In an ironic twist, though “ME!” …, the song itself is just more of the same.