"ME!" by Taylor Swift featuring Brendon Urie // 5 Year Anniversary Song Review & Limited Edition Vinyl Picture Disc

"ME!" was released as the lead single off of Taylor Swift's seventh album, Lover, which in many ways represented a fresh start for her in her career. For better or worse, it also remains among the most divisive, but important, songs in Taylor's discography for many reasons. It's hard to believe it's already been five years since it's release - since then she has put out a total of nine albums and counting, which is crazy to think about. Clearly a lot has happened in those years and it felt like the perfect time to look back on this interesting blip in Taylor's catalog. 

"ME!" is definitely a cute and uplifting song, meant to be a celebration of self-love and confidence. I appreciate the positivity and the sentiment behind making a song like this. With the Lover album celebrating every kind of love, it was really fitting for there to be a song about loving yourself on it like this, as cliché as it may be at times. When she announced the song on Good Morning, America, Taylor said, "'ME!' is a song about embracing your individuality and really celebrating it and owning it. I think that with a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads, and I want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves." The song also features Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, which was also the first time a collaboration served as a lead single for one of Taylor's albums.

This was the first song she ever released under Republic Records, the label she signed to the year prior in late 2018 after her 13-year contract with Big Machine Records was up. "ME!" was the first song Taylor ever released that she owned 100% of the masters and publishing rights for. As the last five years have shown, Taylor has been very outspoken with the falling out between her and Big Machine Records. Alongside the promotion of this era, she began to vocalize her intentions to re-record her first six albums in a pursuit to regain control over the rights for her entire catalog up to that point. Of course, today we all know these re-recordings as Taylor's Version and it has been an incredibly successful move for her. 

Before she would dive into the process of re-recording and re-releasing her back catalog a couple of years later, Taylor started off this new venture with Republic Records with a lighter, happier era than where she left off in 2017 with Reputation. She left behind all of the snake motifs and dark aesthetics for glittering hearts, butterflies and rainbows with Lover - the latter was always more quintessentially Taylor to me anyway. 

Lover is one of my favorite albums by Taylor, it has several of the best songs she has ever released on it - "Cruel Summer", "Cornelia Street", "Death By A Thousand Cuts", "The Archer" and the title track "Lover", just to name a few. Who would have thought that the first glimpse we got into the era, which went on to become one of her most beloved and commercially successful, would have started with a song like this when there are objectively about a dozen better options? Upon it's release, "ME!" garnered a lot of negative reviews, which honestly made it one of the few misses in her career. My personal opinion on the song is not nearly as negative or dramatic as I've seen from others online, but to me it still doesn't even hold a candle to any of the other lead singles she's put out. It's not her worst song by any means, but looking back on it now, I view it more as just a kind of a campy, fun piece in Taylor's catalog that fell victim to bad marketing. 

If it wasn't the lead single and wasn't meant to be this big comeback for her, I don't think anyone would really have a strong opinion of the song either way honestly. After "ME!", Taylor hasn't pre-released a single from an album prior to it's release date ever since, with the exception of some of the re-recordings from Fearless (Taylor's Version). Perhaps if this song was released in the context of the rest of the album, many would probably have a different opinion of it. At the very least, it would have just become a random deep cut from the album that most would have just chosen to forget about. Same goes for if it was off of a soundtrack for a kid's movie too. It's just sounds so corporate, that it's hard to believe that it wasn't written to be a part of a movie soundtrack. If this was promoted in the way that "Happy" by Pharrell was for Despicable Me 2 or "Can't Stop The Feeling" by Justin Timberlake was for the Trolls soundtrack, then it would have made so much more sense. Instead, she was trying to pull in both adults and kids at the same time and the intended audience was marketed too broadly to ever work for both. 

Although I do agree with a lot of the discourse surrounding why "Cruel Summer" never became an official single until years later, it is a discussion that has been overdone at this point. However, I do see now looking back why she may have been compelled to start the era with "ME!" instead. It feels like this was the song that she put out in hopes of proving to her former label that she could make it without them, that the driving power behind Taylor's success was always because of her own talents - a clear message to those that she used to work with that likely doubted her new venture. That's a sentiment that has followed through in a lot of her music to follow, a lyric that comes to mind is "He's got my past frozen behind glass, but I've got me", which is from a song she would write the following year called "it's time to go". As much as I think that there were way better options from this album to be the lead single, in hindsight I do see the possible personal intentions behind why she ended up going with it too. 

On paper, songs like "Shake It Off" or "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" are similarly light-hearted, fun pop songs, but the quality of the writing and production is just miles beyond what we got with "ME!". Especially since the chorus and the bridge are just silly and half-baked. Which is a shame, because her verses are actually well-written and heartfelt, but the rest of it just kind of takes away from that. There was a clip from her Miss Americana documentary of her writing this song in the studio with producer Joel Little and when she played it on the piano, it almost felt like a completely different song. There was almost a layer of sadness that is hidden by all of the cheesy, maximalist production that we got with the final product. 

The real saving grace of this song comes with the music video, which really elevated her vision of it so much more. It really brought to life all of the colors and vibrancy that so much of the era was made up of. I often wonder what it would have been like if we could have seen a fully-realized Lover era from Taylor at the time, it is such a great album that never really got it's full moment because of the pandemic. Of course, that would have meant never getting some of the best music she has ever made with folklore and evermore, which absolutely transformed her career and brought her artistry to new heights. Those are also two of my favorite albums of all time, so I can't imagine a world in which those albums don't exist either.  

Before the song was released, there were several vinyl and CD variants available on her webstore. I have one of the vinyl variants, a 12" picture disc single. I loved the photos used on both sides, they are so colorful and vibrant and really capture the feeling of the Lover era. Side A has a really beautiful photo of Taylor, I honestly think it could have been a contender for the album cover. The photo on side B is of Taylor and Brendon from the music video, which is a cute picture of the both of them. I love how colorful and fun it is, I feel that it encapsulates the song really well. 

I also bought a signed $5 CD single of the song, which actually ended up being upgraded to a signed copy of the Lover album booklet, which was the first item signed item from Taylor that I ever got in my collection. It also ended up becoming super rare and valuable too, so I'm really happy to have it! I will always cherish it! I didn't include it in these pictures, but I definitely want to share more of my signed collection in the future in a separate post! 

This is also the only physical release that features the original version of the song before the iconic "Hey kids, spelling is fun!" lyric was edited out of the final album version. I don't even think that the original version is even on streaming anymore, aside from the music video. I wish she kept it regardless of the feedback, the cringe is a part of the fun! It's a little bit of a different situation, but the same goes for the drama with the "Anti Hero" video a few years ago too. 

One thing about Taylor is that as much as she excels at writing a heart-wrenching emotional ballad, she's just as good at writing pop anthems that are as clever as they are infectious. After all, you'll never find another like her!😉 The dichotomy of her artistry is one of the many reasons why she is as successful as she is because of her ability to seamlessly switch between the two.  Filler lyrics like "Me-e-e, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh" and "You can't spell 'awesome' without 'me'" just doesn't fall into either of those categories for me. The weak points of "ME!" don't really even matter though, it was just a swing and a miss that she has been able to bounce back from tenfold. Even the fact that she released this song and immediately went into making albums like folklore and evermore within the span of a year is a testament to how incredibly versatile she is as an artist. Ultimately, "ME!" stands out as an intriguing blip in Taylor Swift’s discography, a whimsical and campy moment that sparkles with fun even if it diverges from the narrative depth of the rest of her work.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Lover by Taylor Swift*, I would really appreciate if you would do so through my affiliate link here* which I may earn a commission from. Taylor's music is such a major part of my music collection and has always been an artist I loved since I was very young. Shop more Taylor Swift music here!*

I have written countless times about Taylor Swift's music over the years, all of which are linked here and below. Many more are coming soon too, including a full Lover album review for the five year anniversary coming this summer, as well as an in-depth review of The Tortured Poets Department coming veryyyy soon! I hope you'll come back soon and check it out! I also have tons of vinyl from Taylor Swift in my record collection, so if there are any specific albums or pressings you'd like to see next, let me know! 

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!

-Melissa ♡

All photos are my own!

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