You can’t spell awesome without me: two Swifties weigh in on Taylor Swift’s new era

By Gaby Gloria and Karen Racelis

 

Last Friday, after a very public countdown, Taylor Swift dropped the music video for her brand new single Me! featuring Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie (who, by the way, is still as cute as ever). The single ushers in the new era, and many are hopeful that Taylor will turn over a new leaf from the ominous era that preceded it.

 

 

A couple of us on the Young STAR team are/were Swifties, so naturally, we’ve got a lot of thoughts. Before we move on to the analysis, here’s a recap in case you haven’t been keeping up: Tay’s 2017 release Reputation revolved around the scandals and secrecy that led the superstar to hang up the phone for a while. Fresh off the feud with Kimye, she took control of her side of the story, ultimately claiming the snake as her own personal trademark. This upcoming album will hopefully deal with the outcome of that.

She was in a white dress, curls golden in the sunset, on a balcony in summer air. The Taylor that I first met was the Taylor of Love Story — believer of happy endings and fairytales. She was young and fearless. The Taylor who first turned me into a Swiftie was the crooner who recklessly wore her heart on her sleeve with lyrics that navigated her emotions. That was 11 years ago. In the time that has passed since then, that heart changed.

We saw it grow into an independent voice, teaching us to “Speak Now.” We saw it paint love “Red.” We watched it move into the big city without losing the girl born in “1989.” Then we lost her as she stepped into the role of the antagonist to address the death of her “Reputation.”

We were both young when I first saw you: the Taylor I first met was a believer of happy endings and fairytales.  

Now, we’re about to witness a whole new era, led by the release of the single Me! Now that Taylor has finished shedding her metaphorical skin, it seems we’re going back to her roots a la “Speak Now,” complete with flowy gowns. And the question on everyone’s mind is: Are we seeing the old Taylor again?

Aesthetically, the clues say yes. If Tay’s latest IG stories have any common denominator, it’s glitter and butterflies. Her pastel outfits, in stark contrast against the deep blacks of Rep’s aura, are reminiscent of the color palette of her first three releases. Musically, however, I can’t exactly say that we’re facing a singer’s resurrection.

The new single boasts a cheery correspondence to the pop equation. Much like Shake it Off which led the release of 1989, we’re faced with a tune that some have difficulty swallowing. The voice is Taylor’s, but the sound is foreign. Me! is a melody that deviates from the storytelling craft that we have come to associate with Taylor, but it sticks. Whether that’s bad or good is for the individual listener to decide, but audiences have certainly not shied away according to the stats. With over 65 million views, Me! broke the record for the 24-hour Youtube video debut for a solo female artist. In short, a lot of us are here for it. The new single may be a light-hearted bop far removed from the depth of the lyricism we’ve grown accustomed to, but if cheer is the path she’s choosing to tread, then I’m hopping in.

‘Me!’ is a melody that deviates from the storytelling craft that we have come to associate with Taylor, but I think it sticks.

I’m still crossing my fingers for soul-baring pieces like All Too Well to make an appearance on the album. Taylor’s power is in her ability to present her narrative, and its absence from Me! only boosts my hope that she is reserving the best for later. With rumors that the Dixie Chicks are on the record, fans of “the old Taylor” can look forward to at least one country-reminiscent track. Picture to Burn 2.0, anyone?

Time will tell if we will hear her acoustic guitar again, but for sure, we will be hearing a different story. And why not? The Taylor of 2019 has undergone a reimagination. No longer is she that country sweetheart. She has taken on roles we never dreamed she would, dealing with scandals that could have driven her career to the ground. Despite all that, she has risen. She has survived more trials than the girl who sang about life “before you know who you’re gonna be.” This time, Taylor Swift already knows, and I’m excited to see where that road leads.

Taylor, if you’re reading this; thank you, because your life has helped a young girl find herself. You have since changed from who you were when I first swore allegiance, but I love you, and that’s all I really know. Thank you for giving me the courage to change. Thank you for making me brave enough to own it. Thank you for teaching me that it’s fearless to reinvent me.  Karen Racelis

I have nothing against Taylor Swift. But as a disappointed Swiftie who spent four years of my life obsessing over her every move, not commenting on this comeback would be a disservice.

I was once a card-carrying, sequined-Keds wearing Swift stan. The kind who’d try to copy her preppy style, read all her interviews, and cry every time I’d watch her pull out the “I Love You” paper in the You Belong With Me music video.  

But after the events of #NationalSnakeDay and her continued use of the victim card, I had to throw in the towel (er, sparkly Keds) and call it a day. In the year following the release of “1989”, she transformed from the doe-eyed, sneakers-over-heels, t-shirts over short skirts girl I’d spent my formative years loving into the very person she used to set herself apart from.

But then again, who could blame her? She once sang that “these things will change,” after all.  It’s natural for us to evolve as we grow older, and I imagine that being a worldwide superstar brings with it all sorts of triggers for that. But new Taylor wasn’t what 21-year-old Gaby needed in 2017, and that was that.  

Taylor’s ‘Reputation’ era was, in my opinion, a mess.

I unceremoniously took down the Red era poster of her I’d put up on my bedroom door (a spot previously occupied by the Jonas Brothers) and declared that I was officially retiring from being a hardcore fan of anything because they always disappoint you anyway (I was wrong about the retiring bit btw, but that’s another story).

When the “Reputation” era came around, I was done for good. The comeback was lightyears away from any of her previous work. From the graphics to the lead single (I still get war flashbacks to hearing the chorus of LWYMMD for the first time), Reputation Taylor was, in my opinion, a mess. Granted, the album itself had a few bops, but the whole “I’m owning the snake narrative but also not apologizing for it” didn’t do it for me. The closest we got to an apology was her recent Elle Magazine piece on the 30 things she learned before her 30th birthday.

With Me!, it seems that she’s back on that sparkles and rainbows agenda (seriously, that music video seemed like a rainbow puked on it). There are fan theories about how TS7 has got all the energy of sparkles and fairy tales from “Speak Now”, which is confusing because “Reputation” led us all to believe that the old Taylor was dead for good.

There ain’t no ‘I’ in team: Taylor’s latest single features Panic! At the Disco’s Brendon Urie.

As a lead single, Me! still trumps LWYMMD by the principle of Brendon Urie featuring in it, but that’s about all it has going for it. Visually and sonically, it had hints of Katy Perry and Ariana Grande. Lyrically, it lacked the signature flair I’ve grown to expect from a Taylor song (Hey kids, spelling is fun!? Are you kidding me with that).

The pop star’s always had her own way of doing things and is no stranger to reinvention — remember how everyone freaked out over the country to pop transition pre-”Red” era before realizing that change was good for Taylor? It was enough for me to trust her up until “1989”, but I can’t say the same post-“Reputation”.  

Now, I fear that she’s giving into the Machine and turning into any other run-of-the-mill pop act. I’m waiting for the full album before making any definite claims — any Swiftie would know that her first single is usually the least impressive song on the album — but for now all we can do is wait and see. — Gaby Gloria

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