Friday, May 3rd, 2019

Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie – ME!

Things have changed for “ME!”…

Alex Clifton: A lead single should not make me think, “Oh, is this the Kidz Bop version?”

Abdullah Siddiqui: This isn’t the Old Taylor or the New Taylor. It’s some entity so devoid of anything remotely substantive it doesn’t warrant a human name. And I’m not very familiar with this Brendon Urie, but his delivery of the line “and you can’t spell awesome without ‘me'” sounds like the sonic embodiment of a Disney XD mid-season replacement choking on its own blue-cotton-candy puerilism. And I know that makes literally no sense but it’s honestly the best way I know how to describe it.

Taylor Alatorre: On the one hand, this was designed to subvert as few expectations and step on as few toes as a late 2010s Taylor Swift lead single can. On the other hand, it commits so hard to the bit that it ends up becoming a Lonely Island parody of the kind of post-Glee positivity pop that fueled the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. Our culture may be more jaundiced since then, but the market for that stuff hasn’t gone away, and Swift and Urie deliver the message in a way that feels more true to how people actually consume those songs. Rather than offering the prize of social recognition as a package deal with some nebulous invocation of societal change, they make a beeline for the inner voice of narcissism that resides within the overworked neoliberal subject. They listen to that voice, they give it what it wants, and the result is a communal celebration of self-regard that, in all its candidness and mutual puffery, makes you feel connected to something larger than just another grueling megastar album cycle. Unfortunately, that “something larger” happens to be the same collective unconscious that apparently just wants Panic to be the “High Hopes” band now.

Jessica Doyle: It’s catchy, granted, but so insistently, aggressively vapid that I am resisting the obvious conclusion that Taylor Swift actually thinks that this is work to be proud of. It makes more sense as a reconciliation of three opposing forces: she wants to make music; she feels responsible for the multi-hundred-dollar machine she’s spent half her life putting in motion; and she dislikes and resents the performer (maybe also the person) she’s become. That would explain pairing a catchy song with lyrics such as “can’t spell awesome without ME!” and a video whose final shots suggest she is actually made of toxic rainbow sludge.

Katherine St Asaph: A garish mess in exactly the same way “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” was. Yelpy vocals, forced whimsy, obnoxious spoken word, slapdash everything — well, almost everything. The chorus is the second song in a year to rip off Emeli Sandé’s “Next to Me,” which really wasn’t in need of two ripoffs. The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now, because she’s been replaced with the New Boring. Brendon Urie is the best thing about this, though I’d rather listen to three minutes of him singing Vines.

Tobi Tella: Can something be inoffensive enough that it becomes offensive? It’s hard to imagine a song this generically pleasant and basic angering people off the heels of some of the Reputation singles, but here we are. It’s disappointing to see Taylor put out yet another vapid lead single devoid of any deep themes, but goddamn if this didn’t grow on me almost immediately. It’s just so much dumb fun, and even though these two people are capable of much more and I’ll probably forget about it in a few months I will definitely scream it every time it comes on the radio for now.

Will Adams: The singular badness of Taylor’s past three lead singles can all be boiled down to their overblown-ness, whether in song, in video, or in their inevitable absorption into The Discourse. But “ME!” is a special kind of bad, one whose wrongness comes from all directions to create something truly confusing. There’s the sonic rehashing of a single from two albums back (also those terrible horns), inert lyrics that offer nothing recognizably Swift, the aesthetic 180 that makes Reputation feel even more pointless and, worst of all, the patronizing kids show affect. It’s really hard to figure out what she was trying to do here. Without Max Martin’s catchphrases, Shellback’s sheen, or even Jack Antonoff’s weirdness, we’re left with an overblown Train song. Here’s hoping, come the album, she keeps her promise that we’ll never find another like “ME!”.

Jibril Yassin: Taylor Swift loves dispatching red herrings for her forthcoming albums in the form of lead singles. While she couldn’t fully commit to the heel turn, Reputation went out of its way to show her songwriting capacities hadn’t diminished, but it says a lot that I already want the Right Said Fred-aided Taylor back. “ME!” flows and surges with the pop efficiency she’s mastered, but the lyricism resembles a once-sharp camera lens out of focus. Draping herself in the sounds she last used on Reputation, now drenched in major-key sunshine, also feels like a serious misstep when a theatre-kid diva like Brendon Urie decides to show up and completely steal the show. A song like “ME!” calls for high theatrics and powerful vocals and here, Taylor doesn’t play to her strengths.

Katie Gill: Taylor Swift was one of the first people to sign on for the movie-musical Cats. I’m not saying this just because that fact brings me joy and happiness every time I remember it, but because you don’t agree to be in a show that features tap-dancing beetles, a magic show, and a character called Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat unless you have a healthy appreciation for cheesiness. And this song further proves that Taylor Swift is fully embracing the concept of cheese. Why else would she include lyrics like “hey kids! Spelling is fun!”. But three things prevent this song from reaching its full, beautiful, glorious Gouda potential. One: the fact that the chorus seems designed from the ground up to play in a Target commercial. Two: the fact that the lyrics never get past the braggadocio, “I’m so awesome” hubris that tainted a lot of her Reputation-era work. Three: Brendon Urie’s existence on the track.

Ryo Miyauchi: Taylor’s past fuck-yous to her former guys worked because she didn’t leave room for them to speak in the song’s narrative or actually in the music itself. Brendon Urie in “ME!” functions as wish fulfillment on top of wish fulfillment, singing the ideal response from the man to go with Taylor’s perfect last words. His presence is extra fluff that the track can do without, but he’s just one of many campy toppings that sugarcoats the stinging bitterness at the song’s core to the point they wash away any taste when consumed. The cliche series of contrasts in the pre-chorus, the Sesame Street bridge, filler rhymes just to get to the next lyric — all of this lyrical blandness doesn’t help prop Taylor up as the underdog to cheer for in this breakup.

Hannah Jocelyn: Every part of this song sounds like other songs that were successfully upbeat without being too cutesy. “ME!” isn’t one of those. Like former contemporary Katy Perry with her “Swish Swish” video, Swift actively tries to be cringey but the attempts at cringe make her cringey. It’s like Patrice Wilson’s self-conscious follow-ups after “Friday” if he was given a Dave Meyers video budget. Taylor’s own friend-by-her-right-ay Brendon Urie helps a little bit, because he’s good at hamming it up, but while Taylor has pulled off hamminess in the past (“Blank Space” is one of her most-loved songs for a reason), this doesn’t suit her. Even the lines about fighting in the rain feel like perfunctory good lyrics. The rest of the album will probably be fine, as even 1989 led with “Shake It Off.” But even that song’s bridge didn’t have “spelling is fun.”

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: For a second, right around “spelling is fun,” I thought this would ascend, phoenix-like, into glorious schlock. But before and after that incredible interlude, “ME!” is not even the exciting kind of trash. It’s content to just be mediocre, occasionally winking at the camera in ways that its authors clearly think is endearing but mostly come off as desperate. It’s an emphatic shrug of a song, at once saying nothing and doing so loudly.

Scott Mildenhall: Tonally aimless, it’s very hard to deduce the spirit in which this is meant. In its most desperate moment — yes, “spelling is fun!” — it doesn’t so much tip its hat to the audience as frisbee it into their face, but at the same time it’s not so ironic as to be mean-spirited. As a whole, it’s like a Wiggles mash-up of “Blank Space” and “We Go Together”, and it’s hard to know how anyone, whether their intentions were wholesome or cynical, would ever reach that by design. Perhaps this is simply just a spectacular misfire. The thematic mismatches, zero-dexterity crowbarring of aphorisms, desultory brass parps and gossamer-thin hook suggest seriously misplaced ambition. The one time “ME!” seems to be heading in its intended direction is its conclusion, at which it becomes an ever-ascending celebration. By then, though, it’s already dug itself a deep hole to fly out of.

Alfred Soto: The first time she’s sounded manic and desperate, like someone pleading for her life; she could’ve titled it “You Must Love Me.”

Stephen Eisermann: Remember when everyone said “Look What You Made Me Do” was Taylor’s worst lead single and it could never be worse? I do. And guess what? This is worse.

Jonathan Bradley: “ME!” takes as its starting point the belated success of “Delicate,” the late-cycle Reputation single that helped remind more than a few listeners and critics that they’d radically misinterpreted that album on its release. It makes sense that Taylor Swift would return to the source of that renewed goodwill, and this new single does sound designed as a rebirth of sorts: it is sunny and outward-looking after an insular and intimate record. It’s also unashamedly and jubilantly corny. That should not surprise; Swift has never only been a dextrous chronicler of emotional contours, and corn has been a part of her songwriting toolbox going back at least to the time she wrote a gushing romance starring Romeo and Juliet that ended with a marriage and hefty key change. “ME!” is unabashed in its goofiness, pairing that dorkiness with the frivolity of “Shake It Off,” her biggest hit to date. Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie fits in well with this theatricality, and Swift helps temper his archness; he’s had “High Hopes,” but never this much fun. And it’s this sense of fun that makes “ME!” so enjoyable. This is a song that sees the strangenesses and imperfections of ourselves and the people around us, and greets them with optimism and — Reputation hasn’t entirely left us — a bit of wanton selfishness. I’ve been to plenty of Taylor Swift shows and, as with “Shake It Off” or “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” or “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” — I can already tell how much of a blast of a setlist-capper “ME!” will be.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: “Taylor finger, Taylor finger, where are you?”

Reader average: [3.72] (40 votes)

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5 Responses to “Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie – ME!”

  1. It’s honestly fantastic. It is so bright and optimistic it about takes you to another level.

  2. i have listened to this multiple times and yet when i try to remember what it sounds like without fail my brain immediately starts playing rachel platten’s “stand by you” which is itself already like a thrice-saved jpg of a xerox of a fax of an actual song

  3. oh shit that’s EXACTLY what it rips off

  4. I’m just glad this managed a >2.00 controversy, otherwise I don’t think it could be legally considered a TSwift lead single

  5. A truly phenomenal song, that captures the essence of her style. The production is fantastic. The lyrics are easy and digestible and the whole thing is great.