Taylor Swift has been leaving Easter eggs for her fans, with clues about the title, themes, et al. of her new single. The video, as it turns out, is almost like diving into a literal basket of Easter eggs. The opening title card for “ME!” reads “directed by Dave Meyers and Taylor Swift,” but we can tell who really directed it: Peter Cottontail. He had to do something with those tens of millions of gallons of coloring left over from last Sunday.
At some point, we will be able to evaluate “ME!” strictly as a single, but for now, it’s impossible to divorce it from “ME!” the video, a phantasmagorical delight that may set some kind of new standard for how instantly a sugar rush can be induced without actually mainlining pure cane with a pink needle. The theme seems to be plaster of Paris — as in, a Parisian landscape plastered with torrents of melting pinks, blues and yellows, whether they’re flowing like overheated ice cream out of Swift’s chiffon dress or just raining down from the heavens in a bubblegum psychedelia.
“ME!” is so blissed out on color and fantasy, this almost entirely CGI-animated vision makes “Yellow Submarine” look like a dimly lit film noir by comparison. It does start off as a French film, with Swift and duet partner Brendon Urie, of Panic! at the Disco, engaged in a subtitled foreign-language spat (“And in front of our young daughters,” sniffs Swift, before the camera cuts to you-know-which kitties). There is the slightest bit of tension in the lyrics that follow — “I know that I’m a handful, baby… I know that I went psycho on the phone” — but not the slightest bit of it in the perfectly chipper music or especially in the mainlining-ebullient video, in which our quarreling lovers suddenly find themselves with nothing more grave to fight about than whether the extras’ suit jackets, ties and briefcases should be fucsia-, blush-, or rose-colored.
It’s so sweet that maybe you can’t blame any viewer who just has to beg off a minute or two into it, claiming tummy trouble. But for those of us who have the stomach for this hilarious and giddy a level of Cadbury splendor, what fun “ME!” is, with Meyers and Swift churning out delightful visual riffs faster than the musical hooks can keep up. You’d have to go back to the days of vintage Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons to find many animated moments as inventive as the one where Urie pops open the heart emblem on his shirt and we go down a succession of levels through his carved-out chest to a ’60s hootenanny where he and Swift are doing the frug in front of an audience of Ed Sullivan-style screamers.
The whole video, actually, is kind of “Moulin Rouge” meets Peter Max at “The TAMI Show,” with some coverage from “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.” There’s a bit of meat inside all this candy, too — a message of self-affirmation and individuality amid the crushes and romantic coupling, and of standing up for oneself in the middle of the call to cave in to compromise for the sake of getting along. “I’m the only one of me / Baby, that’s the fun of me,” Swift insists to Urie, who is inclined to agree that unique flavors are what make this sweets-shop of a world go round.
But, mind you, there’s not a lot of medicine that the heaping spoonfuls of sugar are helping go down. Swift’s upcoming album will undoubtedly touch on some other major emotional food groups, too. But for now, you can imagine that they consist solely of dextrose, fructose and glucose, and that dresses really do turn into ice-cream fountains, and that dripping digital paint brushes are the cure for whatever ails continental young love.