Taylor Swift’s ME! conquers online spaces,lights up stars-filled Billboard awards night

While checking into the world of entertainment, you unbuckle the shoes of disbelief and leave them behind at the door. After all, it’s our craving for the unreal that sustains this world. However, as in everything else, here too, propotions matter. How much should that “unreal” be? A soupcon more of it, and it descends into the unrelatable.

That was the thought I found entering my mind when I watched Taylor Swift’s latest music video ME!, around the time it was released, April 26. It’s now all over the place, even opening the Billboard Music Awards (BBMA) event in Las Vegason May 1 in a burst of colour. The video of Swift and Brendon Urie performing ME! at the BBMA funcion, with glitzy props that come close to presenting some of visual elements of the music-video itself, is gathering views at a nifty pace.

Here are a few numbers that help partly make sense of the buzz around ME!. In this age, when instant virality is an avidly- and sometimes aggressively-sought goal, the first 24 hours are as critical in the life of a music video as are the first six overs of powerplay in an IPL match. ME! Did get off to a blitzkreig of a start, reportedly besting other record-holding songs on a few platforms for number of views, with the most significant being its performance on YouTube. According to a report by Billboard citing figures released by YouTube, at 65.2 million views in the first 24 hours, ME! earned for Swift the record for most number of views for a song by a female artiste, racing past Ariana Grande’s previously-held record, with 55 million views for Thank U, Next.

Now, songs announce their arrival much before they actually do, thanks to strategic peeks offered through a loose form of social-media marketing by the singers themselves. Before the release of Earth, we found Lil Dicky doing it successfully. So it has been with Swift and her ME!

That is not to take anything away from what these two singles are. They are both spanking good songs, as the sustained listener interest in them has proved..

ME! is catchy in a manner pop songs have to be, and I have caught myself a few times, humming a few of its lines. There are so many others who are likely to agree with me. Multilingual and muliple-genre voice artiste Sangita Santosham calls the song an earwarm.

“The sounds are breathy, in a nice way. It may have to do with the mikes that are increasingly used in music recording to pick up even faint breathing sounds and enhance them for effect,” says Sangita.

In these times, in most songs, the visuals and the sounds support each other significantly. ME! is such a song. The colours could have been less blinding — okay, I am using hyperbole to get my point across. As a birder, I am all for blindingly bright colour. But I am also for contrast. In the Indian roller bird that I get to see regularly in my neck of the woods, the blue is offset by the light brown and vice versa. In many frames, ME! gives you a sense of being doused in mixed paint with carelessly-chosen colours. One frame appears to be straight out of a 1960s Bollywood dance-duet – the one where the camera pans into a graphic-drawn heart on Urie’s chest, and takes in a dance hall.

These days, Brendon Urie has been defying gravity time and again. First, in High Hopes by his group Panic! In The Disco, he ascended a tall building, walking up the face of it, at an impossible angle, using props. In ME! he parachutes down, holding an open umbrella.

The theme stands on two weight-bearing pillars, unabashed self-adoration and melodramatic love, with both the female (Swift) and male protoganist (Urie) projecting themselves as the numero uno, pooh-poohing the idea of competition, with the former particularly airbrushing the fact that she is difficult to get along with.

The emotions may be a bit too bubbling for some people’s liking. For such people, Swift’s You Belong With Me, or even Teardrops On My Guitar, may be more appealing.

ME! has riffs that stay on long after you have heard them – and that is what makes it a merry song with a light theme, and spanking good to the ear. Well, after all, you don’t have to always relate to something to enjoy it.


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