The star’s first single since Reputation has almost none of the elements that once made her interesting, but it does have a dolphin screech for a chorus.
One of the most impressive things about Taylor Swift is that she keeps finding a way to offend people simply with sound alone. The story’s been the same every album rollout since 2012’s Red: Swift, the onetime mascot for speaking your own truth over humble country strums, “goes pop,” garishly and greatly. The bungee-jump yodels of “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” the Jazzercise drum line of “Shake It Off,” and the rude robotics of “Look What You Made Me Do” each represented a fresh, unapologetic kind of tackiness. The first listen, in every case, had to trigger a Yikes.
That Yikes, for both die-hard fans and more reluctant admirers, tended to flip to Yes! as Swift’s idiosyncratic cleverness came out with repeat listens. Even the dour Reputation, her 2017 album that amounted to a slight commercial disappointment for her, is more charming than it initially seemed. But at the present moment, hours after Swift kicked off a new album cycle with the single “ME!,” it’s very hard to imagine the reconciliation process replaying this time. The song is everything that gives pop a bad rap.