It’s been quite the month for the hype machine: a new Avengers movie, a new series of Game Of Thrones and now, on top of all that, a new Taylor Swift single.
Swift had teased a new release with a riddle-filled series of Instagram posts, first containing images of butterflies and then what turned out to be stills from the video to accompany ‘ME!’; more recently her followers – some 116m of them on Insta alone – were teased by the message ‘26.4’ with each post, making the arrival of today’s new track on that date less of a surprise, but nevertheless whipping those fans into an absolute frenzy.
The process of creatively unveiling a new project to the world using as series of oblique clues had Swift’s followers bestowing those hints with the conspiratorial zeal of Umberto Eco’s narrator in Foucault’s Pendulum’, with lots of pointless jumping at shadows and futilely trying to unlock a secret that was the sole preserve of those closest to her and those who had worked on the track.
And I’m guilty of that myself. On one day, both Swift and former Throbbing Gristle member Genesis P-Orridge posted butterfly-related posts within seconds of each other – and this couldn’t possibly be anything other than a sign, I thought to myself. Could it be that Swift was going to work on some sort of elaborate art-inflected project with Gen that would test the mettle of her fans?
Sadly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a mere coincidence. Her actual collaborator for ‘ME!’ turned out to be the infinitely safer bet of Brendan Urie from Panic! At The Disco. So I feel slightly embarrassed, but that’s what you get when you start becoming an amateur conspiracy theorist.
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So what to make of this new track? As its name suggests, this new track is a breezy dose of extreme narcissism on the part of both Swift and Urie packaged as a cheery pop love song. “I promise that you’ll never find another like me,” is the opening lyric, which is either assured self-confidence or, like Ovid’s story that introduced us to the domed Narcissus – a spurned lover who consoled himself by falling in love with his own reflection – a massive dose of unhealthy self-appreciation.
Swift even delves into corporate speak with the hackneyed example of Bullshit Bingo “there’s no I in team but you know there is a me,” before going yet further with the line “you can’t spell awesome without me.” Narcissism is defined in the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – the handbook of the global mental health industry – so clearly Taylor is letting her fame go to her head just a little more than is acceptable.
That's the angle the music industry snobs and haters – all of whom circle and prey on Swift with the same exuberant glee with which her fans follow her every move, reading between the lines of her lyrics and comments – are no doubt already so yawnsomely taking, interpreting the lyrics here in ways that suit their own agendas.
And that will mean they’ve already found themselves trapped in the clever Swift’s butterfly net – like the opening salvos off her last two albums, ‘ME!’ is just a catchy pop song, a bit of fun, something that gets adoring fans excited and critics into an angry stew, and more than likely nothing like what her follow-up to 2017’s ‘Reputation’ will actually sound like.
Like a lot of things Swift has done, ‘ME!’ is simply a perfectly-executed, brilliant, joyous, clever slice of pop music and serves as a reminder to po-faced music journalists that they should take things a lot less seriously: Taylor Swift is back, she writes incredible pop songs. Deal with it.
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Words: Mat Smith
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