To call Taylor Swift’s newest single an exercise in narcissism is to say that rain is wet, or perhaps that rainbows are colorful. Obvious, maybe, but denied by the second most hyped thing to come out of this week. Swift herself says the song is about “embracing your individuality and really celebrating it, and owning it.” (Not, apparently, about the nature of color and light, if full-color rainbows are as rare as Taylor-shaped snowflakes. But, I digress.)
The story of Narcissus is one that everyone knows, or rather, one that everyone hears and goes, oh yeah, that. A beautiful hunter who fell in love with himself and died because it was unrequited, Narcissus’s story functions as a warning against vanity and pride. A warning that seems to have very little bearing on the rainbow unicorn sparkle generation. Shameless pride resurfaces in an attack against self-aware loathing, and we fall in love not with our reflections but with our perfectly filtered selfies and tumblr aesthetics.
Yeah, yeah, you say, millennials are the worst, whatever, we’ve heard it. It’s not like vanity isn’t as old as humanity itself. But a new brand of vanity is springing up in the wake of widespread postmodern cynicism. As an objection to socially-conditioned systems, cultural self-awareness has spawned a hybrid child of unadulterated honesty and willful ignorance.
Gone are the simple days of Right Said Fred’s unabashed I’m too sexy for my shirt, so sexy it hurts. Society instead is saturated with saccharine humblebrags screaming, I’m terrible and you’ll like it! with Billy Eichner-like zeal. Swift’s new Pinterest collage of a pop song easily becomes the pinnacle of this evolution, with Brendon Urie echoing her sentiments like Narcissus’s mountain nymph. (Will he be the next to fall prey to her charms and be immortalized by her spite?)
A moment of silence, as Panic! at the Disco has begun to write tragedies.
From the capital letters and exclamation point to the self-indulgent vomit rainbow of a video, “ME!” bespeaks not confidence and quirkiness, but a self-love that borders on certifiable. There’s a reason Narcissus’s stories are ones of revenge and spite and—oh.
A celebration of individuality that sounds like every other, Swift’s smug new single also can’t help but recall that first, innocent celebration of self that sprang from the pockets of the Walt Disney Company into the collective millennial mindset. “The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers” reveled in its bouncy beat and lyrics entreating you to embrace your uniqueness, so it really should be no surprise that a generation now rallies to this narcissistic message.
But the most wonderful thing about Taylor, you know—is she’s the only one.
“ME!” truly is a catchy song. It’s fun, it’s sweet, it’s Swift at her radio-bait best. It’s the symphony of a generation. And, as always, Brendon Urie is a gem. So give the song a listen. Stamp your feet, clap your hands, and stare into the abyss until you fall deeply in love with yourself. Nobody’s gonna love you like you.