People have hurled countless accusations at Taylor Swift in her time — some warranted, most not — but she has never pandered to her audience. Even in her campiest moments (namely “Shake It Off” and “Look What You Made Me Do”), she has always sounded in on the joke; a knowing wink at listeners that felt sincere. All of that awareness has disappeared on “ME!,” the lead single of the forthcoming Lover, where she sounds like anyone but herself. Over militaristic percussion and sparkling synths, the singer and Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco fame trade uninspired lines on self-empowerment that don’t feel genuine to either.
The track begins on a promising, Swiftian “I promise that you’ll never find another like me” before immediately nosediving into trite lyrics about “cool chicks” and being “psycho.” Urie enters in the second verse, delivering an energetic performance against Swift’s conversationalism; it’s here that “ME!” truly unravels, the dissonance between their vocal styles jarring and incredibly pronounced. The bridge throws this derailed train into further chaos, with Swift leading a pseudo-spelling lesson that adds absolutely nothing to the song, leaving the listener pondering whether or not they’ve been Punk’d. More so a Panic! at the Disco throwaway than a Taylor Swift masterpiece, “ME!” is a laissez-faire, big-budget collaboration that does nothing more than a disservice to all parties involved.