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Taylor Swift interview: ‘What you didn't know about ME!’

Exclusive: Speaking to the British media for the first time in three years, the pop star, arguably the biggest name in music, reveals to Roisin O’Connor the unknown stories behind her latest hit single

Friday 24 May 2019 14:35 BST
'I wanted this new album to be like the sky looks after a storm. Colourful, calm, somehow more beautiful than it ever had been before'
'I wanted this new album to be like the sky looks after a storm. Colourful, calm, somehow more beautiful than it ever had been before' (Valheria Rocha)

Taylor Swift has shared a number of details about her hit single “ME!” ahead of her appearance on The Graham Norton Show.

The pop star spoke exclusively with The Independent about the track, which features Panic! At the Disco frontman Brendon Urie and is the first single from her forthcoming seventh album.

In a review, The Independent said the song heralds a “bright new era” for Swift, suggesting that the new sound appears to “signal a time – at least one she intends on practising – of positivity and acceptance”.

“The world is a dark enough place, she seems to say, without another album despairing at the state of it,” it said. ”She’d rather let the light in, instead.”

“ME!” broke a number of music industry records upon release, including the biggest 24-hour debut on YouTube. The video contains several clues about more new music, including references to the album title.

Read our Q&A with Swift, below, for her thoughts on “ME!” along with insights into what to expect from TS7.

Give us a clue: Swift’s video contains hints about future music (Valheria Rocha)

There are so many musical references in the video – which did you draw particular inspiration from?

I watch a lot of films and I’ve always loved musicals. With this video, I wanted it to be sort of a love letter to romantic, epic musical films, but always with a weird eccentric twist. Some of it was inspired by big Disney films, or classics like Singin’ in the Rain (or in this case, singing in a monsoon of fluorescent pastel paint). The love story between the two main characters in these films tends to be very performative, and that’s exactly what I wanted Brendon and my dynamic to be. Demonstrative and showy. Dramatic, but never taking itself too seriously.

What other pop culture references do you think people might have missed in the video?

I wanted to channel Pattie Boyd in the Sixties scene because I adore her. Two glasses of wine and I’m immediately yelling about how much I love Pattie Boyd. I also liked the idea of flipping some old romantic stereotypes, like how a man would make a grand gesture in the street for a girl up on a balcony to make it up to her. Instead it’s me and a bunch of bad ass women in business suits doing the wooing. Then he tries to win me back with a few cliched lady traps like flowers and a ring. But I’m like no, nah. But he hands me a cat? Okay, he must know me.

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With Panic! At the Disco frontman Brendon Urie (TAS Rights Management)

What made you want to work with Brendon Urie on the song?

Brendon is the kind of performer I’ve always been in awe of. Endless energy, creativity and the desire to evolve every time he makes something new. You also never hear anyone in the industry say anything other than “he’s the nicest, loveliest person”. He’s actually got so many great qualities it’s almost obnoxious.

How many seconds was it before you decided to adopt Benjamin Button (the kitten from the ME! video)?

I think for the sake of being extra, I’ll say 13. You know when people say “I saw him and I just KNEW” when they meet the one? Yeah I walk around saying that about a cat.

How many clues are there to the album title in the video?

I think you see it once and you hear it twice.

When did you learn to speak French and what made you want to include it in the video?

I’ve always loved the French language. I think I probably love the French language as much as any non-French speaker can. I wanted to have a nod to that and to the language of love. I also wanted to drop a few hints in the dialogue of the argument.

What was the main or most important message you wanted to send to fans with ME!?

I wanted them to see that I’m heading in a different direction musically than they’ve seen in the past few years. This song was to change expectations and be a bit of a palette cleanser before they hear more of this new project. Plus, the chorus just makes me happy and lifts my mood when I sing it. I never want to be presumptuous, but I hoped it might do the same for someone who’s having a s***ty day.

Have you ever wondered about whether your clues are too well-hidden or do you trust your fans’ detective skills enough that they’ll get there eventually?

I trust them to eventually unravel all of them, even if it isn’t until they hear the full album. That’s how I designed these clues, so that different ones would reveal themselves over time. I know this makes me sound like a frustrating, magical elf making people guess my name or something. If the fans tell me they’re not having fun with it anymore, I swear I’ll stop!

How long has this song been in the making? Because there are references that link as far back as 2012...

I wrote the song this past winter, but I’ve known for quite a while what I wanted this album to look like, feel like, and evoke. I wanted it to be like the sky looks after a storm. Colourful, calm, somehow more beautiful than it ever had been before.

Taylor Swift explains why writing music is so important to her during Time 100 Gala performance

ME! is a song that seems to try and brush away cynicism about being a bit silly and just having fun – was this a message you were really intent on sending to fans, maybe especially in 2019?

Absolutely. It seems like everyone is trying to be so cool and over everything and ready to criticise whatever people make. I mean there are even articles like “Here’s how Twitter feels about _______!” and people are actively being as scathing as possible or taking the piss out of everything because they get attention for it now.

I wanted to put out something that, by nature of it being so buoyant, was actually the opposite of what culture is doing right now. Will it work? I don’t really care. It’s just fun to sing about being in a good mood for a change.

Taylor Swift performs her single ‘ME!’ on The Graham Norton Show on BBC One at 10.35pm

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