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"This is for the best, my reputation has never been worse..." Taylor Swift croons on her hit single "Delicate." This is not a true statement, much like Mickey Mouse, Swift seems immune to any kind of scandal or bad press. In fact, the entire Reputation album seems to be a way for her to convince people that she isn't the master manipulator behind these scandals, as she has been accused of, rather once again she is the victim. Even as she embraced the bad girl persona. And while the CD is not best selling in Swift's arsenal and had fewer hit singles than say her 1989 album, it did decent enough and the accompanying tour proved she is a superstar to be reckoned with. So then why are so many outlets calling her new single "ME!" a comeback? Mostly because that word is overused at this point and no one seems to know what it actually means anymore.
A comeback used to mean when an artist went away for a few years, whether of their own accord or they were forced and then came back with a nifty new song. Think Britney with "Womanizer" or Santana's "Smooth." Those were singles that fans had been waiting patiently for and were outsized hits. This is not to say, "ME!" won't be a huge hit for Taylor Swift, it undoubtedly will be. It's just not a comeback hit.
Swift has been omnipresent and scandal-free for longer than some of her fans have been alive. The biggest change to her career is that she went from Big Machines Records to Universal Music Group. Not a small change, she is going from being a big fish in a small pond to being a big fish in a bigger pond. And yet this doesn't count as a comeback because she wasn't dropped from her label like say Mariah Carey has been or any number of American Idol winners that aren't named Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood. Speaking of Clarkson, she also changed record labels on her volition and her single "Love So Soft" was not considered a comeback, though it was a major adult contemporary hit.
So then why is "ME!" being hailed as a comeback single for Swift? Probably because that is the narrative she has chosen to go with. Despite the message of Reputation Swift is actually a pretty good manipulator of not only how the public sees her but also how the press covers her. Swift's social media game is better than anyone else's out there, bar none. The way she plays the press and the little Easter Eggs she hides in her videos and interviews is astonishing. Fans were speculating that in the "ME!" video she was going to reveal that she is pansexual. She didn't but made it queer enough that no one will question it. And the superstar who could have anyone interview her chose to announce the new music with 'out' Good Morning America co-host Robin Roberts, a subtle sign?
Maybe or maybe not, either way, Swift has the country talking about her. As she has for the past decade or so. And with new music coming at regular intervals, the term comeback certainly does not apply to her. Just like Madonna, who also released a new single and video this week, Swift knows how to craft a story about her and let it play out. A lesson she learned from the Queen of Pop.
And in case you haven't seen the video yet: