Usually, the wait between studio albums by Taylor Swift is about two years. This is a formula she has followed for her entire career with each album landing somewhere in the October-November range. Swift’s last record, reputation (review here), gifted her a fifth #1 album, a history-making adult contemporary radio single with “Delicate,” her 32nd Grammy nomination, and her fourth consecutive record to sell over a million copies in the first week. Despite all this indisputable commercial success, reputation was not as warmly received by critics as Taylor’s previous efforts. The album was markedly darker in theme and sound, and featured aggressive synths and surprise features (hello, Future!).
Now, there’s “ME!” After a cryptic countdown to the date April 26, Taylor Swift has released the lead single to her as-yet-untitled seventh studio album. It has been about a 1.25 years since reputation which marks the shortest timespan between Taylor Swift eras. The new single features Brendon Urie, the last original member of the iconic pop-punk band Panic! At the Disco.
Last year, Panic! released the formidable Pray for the Wicked which housed strong songs like “Saturday Night” (review here) and one of the biggest radio hits in history with “High Hopes.” On “ME,” Brendon provides a heftier vocal that is an appreciated complement to Taylor’s gentle tone. “ME” is a brass-laden ode to self-love and confidence that is keenly aware of its borderline campiness. Taylor and Brendon’s chemistry is effervescent and they exude glee in every note. The marching band-evoking drum pattern that backs the majority of the song’s verses feels like a more organic version of Swift’s “Ready for It,” which is welcome. The overall production of the track is busier than the typical Taylor Swift pop track, but it is still aesthetically lighter. “ME!” is a perfect blend of both artists’ sounds.
While the melody of the chorus is addictive, it is unsettlingly reminiscent of Emeli Sandé’s hit single, “Next to Me.” Not only is the melody eerily similar, the vocal delivery is nearly identical. Moreover, what is usually Taylor’s greatest strength — her songwriting — is surprisingly frail on “ME!” It can be argued that lyrics like “spelling is fun” or “you can’t spell awesome without me” are purposefully humorous or campy, but they’re still cliché and disappointing.
Fortunately, Taylor’s lead singles are rarely the strongest songs on her albums. “ME” is a lot more middle-of-the-road than expected, but it is still and entertaining and fun listen. Listen to “ME!” here.