After weeks of teasing, Taylor Swift has returned with a new single and a fresh color palette ahead of what would be her seventh studio album.
“Me!,” a bubbly pop song by the 29-year-old singer and songwriter, featuring the vocalist Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, premiered on streaming services and as a music video on YouTube at midnight on Friday, following a 13-day countdown — the singer’s lucky number — and an array of other clues and Easter eggs aimed at the devoted fans known as Swifties.
With bright horns and lyrics like “You can’t spell awesome without me,” the playful track — produced by Joel Little (Lorde, Khalid) and Swift, and written by Swift, Little and Urie — is a dramatic swing from Swift’s previous lead single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” released in August 2017. Using some harsher sounds and largely black-and-white visual content, that song and Swift’s ensuing album, “Reputation,” saw the singer grappling with perceived backlash — and embracing snake imagery — while alluding to long-simmering celebrity drama with the rapper Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian West.
“Me!” is more chipper, and was presented in a wash of opal, springtime pastels, rainbows, cats and sparkles. As the music video begins, a CGI snake bursts into a swarm of colorful butterflies.
On Thursday, Swift surprised fans, who had spun elaborate theories about her promotional bread crumbs, in front of a butterfly mural by the artist Kelsey Montague — packed with “clues about the song and the new music,” Swift said on Instagram — in her adopted hometown Nashville.
“You guys are amazing for figuring this out,” she told those gathered, “because no one knew we were coming, no one knew this was a part of the campaign.”
Swift also appeared briefly at the N.F.L. draft on Thursday night, alongside Robin Roberts of ABC. “‘Me!’ is a song about embracing your individuality and really celebrating it and owning it,” Swift said. “With a pop song, we have the ability to get a melody stuck in people’s heads. I just want it to be one that makes them feel better about themselves, not worse.”
The video — which features the singer’s pet cats, images of baby chickens in sunglasses and a quick shot of a Dixie Chicks portrait in the background — was directed by Swift and Dave Meyers, who is known for his work with Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott and Pink.
Though Swift has hinted that more new music is on the way, she did not provide additional details about a potential new album, which is referred to by savvy fans as “TS7” in lieu of a public title. The singer was scheduled to appear again with Roberts on “Good Morning America” on Friday, with the show insinuating additional surprises to come.
Swift announced in November that she had signed a new multiyear, multi-album deal with Universal Music Group and its subsidiary, Republic Records, after more than a decade as the premier artist on the Nashville-based label Big Machine. As part of the new agreement, Swift will own her master recordings moving forward, and on YouTube, the video for “Me!” was credited to Taylor Swift Productions, Inc.
“I feel so motivated by new opportunities created by the streaming world and the ever changing landscape of our industry,” she wrote in a statement at the time.
Swift had previously sparred with streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music over royalty rates, sometimes withholding her songs in protest. But the release of “Me!” keeps with more recent industry trends and is available across the major services. (On-demand streaming now accounts for the vast majority of music consumption in the United States.)
While “Reputation” had a sizable debut, selling more than a million copies in its first week, and has since gone three-times platinum, reaching the modern-day equivalent of three million albums sold (partially through digital plays), it was received more coolly by critics than much of Swift’s previous work. At the Grammy Awards this year, “Reputation” was nominated only for best pop vocal album, losing to Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener.” Swift has won 10 Grammys in her career, including two for album of the year.
Still, Swift remains a titan of pop. The international Reputation Stadium Tour grossed a reported $345.7 million across seventh months, and led to a Netflix concert film released on New Year’s Eve. She has appeared recently on the cover of Elle and Time magazines and, in addition to her new music, will co-star in the forthcoming film adaptation of “Cats,” scheduled for release in December.