Taylor Swift launched her return at 5am UK time on Friday – and her new single Me! has already racked up millions of streams and video views around the world, breaking a string of records in the process.
According to YouTube, Me! now has the all-time opening 24 hours record for a solo artist on the platform, with 65.2 million views, beating Ariana Grande's 55.4m for Thank U, Next. It's also the biggest opening 24 hours for any of Swift's videos (beating Look What You Made Me Do's 43.2m), and has gained more likes than any other Swift video in its first 24 hours. Swift is also now the only solo artist with two videos in YouTube's all-time 24 hour openings, although Me! did fall short of BTS Feat. Halsey's Boy With Luv, which opened with 78m views earlier this month.
Swift also set a new high bar for the all-time Vevo 24 hour record, while Amazon Music announced that Swift broke two records on its platform: most first-day streams and more on-demand voice requests with Alexa than for any other debut.
We'll have to wait for tomorrow's Music Week Official Charts midweek update for confirmation of how Me! is faring in the UK, but Music Week sources indicate Me! is ahead of Stormzy's new song Vossi Bop in the early sales flashes.
Rumours abounded about Swift’s direction on her long-awaited return after her last album, Reputation, which received relatively mixed reviews but still broke sales records with yet another one million-plus US sales week. Me! is the first song to be released via her ground-breaking new deal with Republic, and is released by long-time label home Virgin EMI in the UK.
Produced by Joel Little (best known for his work with Lorde) and Swift, and written by Swift, Little and Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie, who is also a featured artist on the song, Me! certainly moves away from much of the last album. The opening to the video features a Reputation-era snake transforming into a shower of brightly coloured butterflies and, where the last album launched with the Gothic horror of Look What You Made Me Do, the spectacular Me! video – directed by Dave Meyers and premiered on YouTube, where it was preceded by a live Q&A with Swift – goes heavy on the pastel shades and day-glo positivity.
Lyrically, it’s coming from a similar place, with another mischievous Blank Space-esque skewering of her supposed dating persona (“I know that I’m a handful baby… I know that I went psycho on the phone”) and an irresistible chorus that celebrates individuality (“I’m the only one of me/Baby, that’s the fun of me”).
Musically, it’s a return to the classic upbeat lead singles from Swift’s unstoppable pop era, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and Shake It Off, complete with lolzy aside (“Hey kids! Spelling is fun!”) and a mega-earworm chorus. It feels more spontaneous, less precision-tooled than much of Reputation and – with the song already added to BBC Radio 1’s A List, it feels like a guaranteed radio smash.
Hip-hop dominated streaming services may prove trickier – Swift only embraced the format relatively recently. But the song seems to have strong support at Spotify – it’s the first song on New Music Friday UK – and soared straight to No.1 on iTunes. On YouTube, the video had hit over 23 million views by Friday afternoon (indeed at one point it appeared to be much higher, judging by the confused fan comments about views going missing).
Me! is the first lead single from a Taylor Swift album to have a featured artist. Urie has come a long way since Panic’s early emo-rock days. But, now with some previous in this territory since his appearance on The Greatest Showman Reimagined, he’s totally in his element in the musical-inspired video, channelling his inner Mary Poppins as he flies by umbrella and dances up a Busby Berkeley-esque storm.
The biz will now be watching closely for news of an album – although Music Week understands nothing is too imminent – but in the meantime, it all adds up to quite the comeback. As Swift sings, “You can’t spell ‘awesome’ with ‘me’” – and you still can’t spell ‘pop’s greatest superstar’ without 'TS'.