So you know the famous line from the first single off of Taylor Swift's last album, Reputation? "I'm sorry, the old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, cause she's dead." Yes, "Look What You Made Me Do" was jarring. It was a Taylor no one had ever heard before. The anger that simmered quietly behind a fair number of her songs was allowed to take the lead, but that line wasn't true. The old Taylor was very much still there, just an older version tired of all the media attention. Tired of having every angle of her life run over with a magnifying glass. That became even more clear when the video dropped. It made me feel okay about the future of Taylor again. It was self deprecating, honest, and entirely self aware. "Look What You Made Me Do", while not necessarily a bop, was a statement. And I loved the darker, new angle that the album carried. It fulfilled the promise Taylor made in the 1989 era. Yes, it's pop, but it's all Taylor's own.
"ME!" on the other hand, is not. And while I wrote a nervous yet optimistic defense of LWYMMD when it came out, I can't do the same this time around because the song is something I never thought Taylor could be- hollow.
Don't get me wrong, I love the message. Be yourself, love yourself, don't ever compromise that. It's the theme of most of Taylor Swift's catalogue, and she's always delivered, framing the same message is a million different delicious packages that feel like a warm hug from an older sister you never had. I love Taylor's new optimistic, happy outlook on life and her transformation into a butterfly, but, when the snake disappeared in a poof of butterflies at the start of the "ME!" video, I didn't expect the authenticity to go with it.
It doesn't start out too horribly. The intro verse is intriguing enough, but when the bridge hits, the song loses me. I want to shut my laptop by the time the "ooohing" starts. While the chorus will make a lovely Target commercial, it's contrived and simply twists some basic words around in a circle till they sound groovy and confuse you enough to make you think there's substance. The breakdown towards the end where she shouts, "Spelling is fun!" is another place where I breakdown. That whole segment sounds like "ABC" by the Jackson Five. She's explained that they did it to keep the song "fun" and lighthearted, and I'm just not a naturally goofy person, so maybe I'm just destined not to jive with this, but the song doesn't make a ton of sense to me. "Shake It Off" was goofy and fun, but it was structured and unique.
This is a song that I might not have such a problem with if it was from the pop machine that fuels artists like Meghan Trainer, but, from Taylor, who's based her whole brand on being unique, this is a confusing track. Especially since she's billing it as her new era of honesty and unabashedly being herself.
What this says for the other 14 or so songs on the album, I'm not sure. Will they all be so predictable? I hope not. It seems like she definitely plans to take this album in a totally new direction from reputation and even 1989. She wrote and produced "ME!" with Joel Little, who I don't believe she's collaborated with before. Looking into his background might offer a few clues for where this album is going and why he was chosen, but the results are mostly inconclusive. He's a New Zealander with roots in pop punk and has written for acts like Lorde, Ellie Goulding, Ruth B, Tove Lo, Imagine Dragons, Kesha, and Shawn Mendes. While these acts all generally produce music with a much darker edge than "ME!", it shows he's no stranger to basic radio hits. Pop punk also seems to be the label that Taylor is applying to this album.
Taylor has done an amazing job of balancing and structuring albums in the past, so, even if I can't love this album as I whole, I might find a few songs with old Taylor vibes.
While there's not too much to go on now, I'm going to say this- Reputation didn't kill old Taylor, it was "ME!".
Taylor Swift Posts...
Taylor Swift and the Reputation Tour: Here
The Reputation Era and Taylor Swift: Here
Other Discussion Posts:
Recognizing the Artist: Here
Trigger Warnings Show Empathy: Here
Is YA For Me: Here
Links of Interest:
With The Fire On High: Review Here
Into YA with Jennifer Dugan: Here
Hot Dog Girl: Review Here
Opposite of Always: Review Here