By Ben Thompson
After weeks of dropping hints on social media, Taylor Swift finally released her new single ‘ME!’ on April 25th. The upbeat lead single from her forthcoming album features Panic! At the Disco frontman, Brendon Urie, and a music video containing more Easter eggs than a talking rabbit could handle.
The video – crammed full of pastel colours and kittens – had already broken the record for number of views for a solo artist within twenty four hours of release, receiving 65 million views on its first day on YouTube, beating the record 55 million previously held by Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank U Next’.
The response from Swift’s fans has been overwhelmingly positive – the music video currently has over 3 million likes on YouTube, and many have praised the lighter tone of the song and video, standing in stark contrast to the darker aesthetic of Swift’s previous album, Reputation (2017).
The critical reception of the new single, however, has been polarising to say the least. Positive reviews have highlighted the song’s upbeat spirit: “It’s the momentary escape we all need”, wrote Forbes’ Hugh McIntyre. Yet, in the eyes of some critics, it is precisely this tone which formed the single’s downfall. Giving the single 2 stars, The Daily Telegraph‘s Kate Solomon quipped: “The low point might be Swift shouting out, “Spelling is fun, kids!” like a manic summer camp counsellor because she’s noticed that “you can’t spell awesome without me”.
Admittedly, even some of Swift’s fans have pointed out that the lyric in question is overly sappy. Regardless of its decisive reception, however, this shift in tone marks a significant development in Swift’s music. Reputation (2017) was released in the aftermath of a feud with Kim Kardashian and Kanye West that resulted in Swift being branded a ‘snake’ and a ‘liar’ online. The resulting darkness stemmed from the fact that Swift was producing content for a public that had seemingly turned against her.
Now, however, the public is back on her side. Swift was named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2019, was given the opportunity to write for Elle and is due to star in the upcoming adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, Cats.
The dreamy, wide-eyed single reflects Swift’s new general demeanour. It seems that the public have generally moved beyond using Swift as a punchline, and are finally starting to take her seriously. She has plenty to be happy about – and it shows.