Detail of promotional affiche for “Bad Blood”
Detail of promotional affiche for “Bad Blood”
Hey, accept you heard this song, “Bad Blood,” that topped Billboard’s Hot 100? What a hater’s anthem! You accept to curiosity at the assumption of this pop star. The lyrics are a arrangement of she-can’t-be-trusted sneers; the music is lurching, bright strut-pop; and the acute chants in the choir are all sass. And can we allocution about the bedfellow vocalist? He’s acutely the abstruse weapon—no way would this song accept accomplished America’s top of the ancestor after him.
Kendrick? No—what chart-topping “Bad Blood” are you talking about? Because I’m talking about this one:
OK, so maybe Neil Sedaka’s radio-conquering team-up with Elton John (No. 1, 1975) hasn’t age-old all that well. And it looks clumsily basal aing to Taylor’ Swift’s “Bad Blood,” which aloof accomplished No. 1 on the Hot 100 this accomplished week—with above advancement from Kendrick Lamar, broadly admired as the best accomplished rapper of the 2010s.
But Sedaka’s “Blood” has one or two added things in accepted with Swift’s, above its aiguille blueprint position, superstar assist, and aggressive lyrics. Both are, in their own ways, popcorn-movie–style blockbusters. Sedaka’s is Jaws: It came out in ’75, it was tooled for accumulation consumption, and the aftereffect was badly acknowledged if, in retrospect, rather primitive. Swift’s “Bad Blood,” on the added hand, is like Avengers: Age of Ultron: a cutting-edge, absolutely overhyped behemoth that acclimated every ambush in the book to draw eyeballs.
Like a avant-garde summer blockbuster, Swift’s “Bad Blood” distinct was additionally accustomed a heavily answer May absolution date—complete with a alternation of Sin City–inspired posters—and the all-star music video premiered on the televised Billboard Music Awards. This formed like gangbusters: After re-debuting at No. 53 (the song had spent a brace weeks on the lower rungs of the blueprint afore it was appear as an official single), “Bad Blood” attempt all the way to No. 1 a anniversary later—evicting a song from an absolute cine blockbuster, Furious 7’s “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth.
In short, it took an army to accomplish this fourth distinct from Swift’s 1989 anthology a chart-topper. Swift’s critics allege her, about unfairly, of actuality a prefab, advised commodity. I am usually amid those arresting her songwriting accomplishment and abiding fan service. But “Bad Blood”—among the weakest advance on Swift’s latest album, now a smash—makes that aegis harder. It gives ammo to Swift’s haters, which is ironic, back the song, alike added than aftermost fall’s “Shake It Off,” is all about defying haters.
Or at least, one cynic in particular: “Bad Blood” is a adulteration letter to Swift’s adolescent pop administrator Katy Perry, according to appealing abundant anybody (including Perry herself). In an account Swift gave Rolling Stone backward aftermost summer in the countdown to 1989’s release, she explained, beneath tissue-thin cover, that the song was aggressive by a adolescent award-show-attending pop brilliant and frenemy who, in the end, “tried to demolition an absolute amphitheatre tour.” Translation, as appear by the press: Back in 2013, Perry absorbed a baby affiliation of Swift’s advancement dancers over to her tour. For Swift, that was the aftermost straw.
This teapot-tempest led Swift—collaborating with her Swedish producer-songwriter BFFs, Max Martin and Shellback—to compose this schoolyard taunt of a song, its acrimonious two-note angle a agreeable admiration to that amphitheater archetypal “Nyah, nyah” (“Baaaaaaad claret … Maaaaaaad adulation … Prooooooo-blems …,” etc.). To Swift’s credit, both the melody and lyric of “Bad Blood” absolutely are direct. Like any accomplished pop song, it’s relatable and broadly applicative to a ambit of commonplace contretemps, from a baseborn admirer to a action over the appointment fridge: “Band-Aids don’t fix ammo holes/ You say ‘sorry’ aloof for show.” (Hey, Taylor—they’re advancement dancers!) On the whole, though, little of Swift’s brand wit and annoying eloquence—recall the able way she beatific up the tabloids’ angel of her on “Blank Space”—wound up in the accomplished product.
That said, the adaptation of “Bad Blood” that’s aloft the Hot 100 is an advance on the clue that debuted on Swift’s 1989 anthology seven months ago. That’s acknowledgment abundantly to two people, including one less-heralded artisan who’s the remix’s MVP. That guy is 28-year-old producer-songwriter Ilya Salmanzadeh, who reimagined “Blood” for distinct release. Yes, addition Swede—Ilya, as he’s accepted professionally, is one of his agriculturist Max Martin’s newest protégés (they collaborated on Ariana Grande’s “Problem” and Jessie J’s “Bang Bang” aftermost year). For the rebooted “Blood,” Ilya has deepened the track’s bass thump, amplified its DJ Mustard–like “HEY!” and pared abroad best of Taylor’s verses, abbreviation the song to its burden additional aloof a scattering of agreeable highlights. Producer-remixers can accept a huge appulse on late-breaking anthology cuts, and if Ilya isn’t absolutely at the akin of a Nile Rodgers or a aggregation like Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, his mix was basic to authoritative the song radio-ready.
But then, of course, the added key amateur on the “Bad Blood” remix is Kendrick. Long afore they collaborated, Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift were articulate admirers of anniversary other’s work. Swift was such a superfan of the rapping on Lamar’s now-immortal 2012 anthology Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City that, on the day she begin out 1989 had burst debut-week sales records, she alone a triumphal, endlessly rewatchable Instagram video of herself lip-dubbing the rapper’s “Backseat Freestyle.” For his part, Lamar has outed himself as a fan of Swift’s above-mentioned anti-hater canticle “Shake It Off.” So an absolute recorded accord amid K-Dot and T-Swizzle was apparently inevitable.
Lest anyone agnosticism Kendrick’s acknowledgment for Taylor, in the additional of his two verses on “Bad Blood” he drops a advertence to “Backseat Freestyle.” It’s one of abounding examples of Kendrick’s tongue-tripping turns of byword on this single; I decidedly adore his blow of percussive plosives on “It was my division for action wounds, action scars/ Body bumped, aching …” But your attention for Kendrick’s accomplishment is anon proportional to your expectations of him at this boundless moment in his career as rap’s arch light. This is Kendrick in accessible, maximum-pop mode, accomplishing for Swift actuality what Rakim did for Jody Watley’s “Friends” in 1989 (regarded as the arrangement for the pop song–plus–rap arch we now booty for accepted on Top 40 radio). Kendrick’s added than accomplished on “Bad Blood,” but abounding of us authority him to a college accepted now.
Besides, Kendrick didn’t absolutely accept to accompany his A-game to “Blood” to accomplish it a No. 1 hit (his aboriginal anytime on the Hot 100, for the record). All he had to do was appearance up.
For decades, labels accept acclimated new singles to attract admirers to buy greatest-hits albums absolute songs they already own. (This is why Earth Wind & Fire came to almanac their archetypal “September” for a 1978 hits album, and why Daryl Hall and John Oates recorded two new hits for the 1983 accumulation Rock ’N Soul Allotment 1.) In the age of the agenda download, this milk-the-fans tactic has advance to the akin of the single. The apparatus of iTunes added than a decade ago messed with the music industry’s old arrangement for breeding hits—in the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, albums would go abounding singles deep. Back the labels controlled back anniversary distinct would be issued at retail, it was accessible for, say, the fourth distinct from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours (“You Accomplish Loving Fun,” No. 9, 1977), the fifth distinct from Madonna’s True Blue (“La Isla Bonita,” No. 4, 1987), or the seventh distinct from Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation (“Love Will Never Do (Without You),” No. 1, 1991) to blueprint high. Now—in an age back all the advance on an anthology are accessible for a la carte acquirement from the jump—labels absolution a backward distinct from an anthology charge to accord admirers a able new allurement to acquirement a song that’s already been on-sale for months.
This is area Kendrick comes in: A remix of an old distinct entices both the new, one-off fan and the completist Taylor über-fan to bang “buy.” In fact, Swift’s bête noire Katy Perry acclimated the tactic alert auspiciously in 2011—the fourth No. 1 distinct from her Teenage Dream album, “E.T.,” was fueled by a Kanye West remix; and the fifth, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.),” was nudged to the top by a Missy Elliott remix. In all these cases, the remixes are the pop-music agnate of the Brilliant Wars Special Edition cycling through theaters, DVD, Blu-Ray, and alive video—opportunities to accomplish admirers accessible up their wallets all over again.
The “Bad Blood” remix is the pop-music agnate of the Brilliant Wars Special Edition.
Speaking of effects-heavy productions, let’s allocution about that “Bad Blood” music video. Swift and her aggregation not alone spent above bread to accomplish abiding its CGI was state-of-the-art, she additionally arranged the video with a dozen and a bisected celebrity guests, including so abounding supermodels you’d be forgiven for cerebration the blow is a quarter-century-later aftereffect to George Michael’s “Freedom ’90.” The cast—each with a fantasy superhero name—is headed by an arrangement of such real-life Friends Of Taylor as Lena Dunham, Ellie Goulding, Hayley Williams, and (in the role of the Katy Perry–manqué villain) longtime bestie Selena Gomez. It’s an absorbing four-minute eyes of changeable badassery that goes some ambit against authoritative the audacious “Bad Blood” a ambitious feminist acclamation à la Mad Max: Fury Road.
That wasn’t the alone way the “Bad Blood” video paid off: On its debut, it set a one-day Vevo almanac of added than 20 actor views. Those video views, accompanying with about 400,000 in agenda sales of the single, the all-inclusive majority of them for the Kendrick remix, accumulated to pole-vault the song to No. 1. With the song additionally ascent at radio, it’s now got an aboriginal advance for the Song of the Summer.
If there’s one accomplishment that’s a ability for Swift now, it’s the best almanac for best No. 1 singles from an album. That cardinal is five, currently captivated in a tie by Michael Jackson’s Bad (1987–88) and Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream (2010–11). “Bad Blood” is the third No. 1 from 1989 and the fourth clearly answer single, afterward aftermost fall’s “Shake It Off” (No. 1), winter’s “Blank Space” (No. 1), and aboriginal spring’s “Style,” which, admitting actuality one of the album’s best tracks, adjourned at No. 6. Naturally, accustomed the advancing ascendancy of 1989’s singles, chart-watchers accept amorphous to brainstorm about whether Swift stands a adventitious at attached or assault this record.
At the accident of underestimating the ascendant Queen of Pop, I doubtable she’ll appear up short. Advance like the ’80s-tastic “New Romantics” or “All You Had to Do Was Stay” may accept a boxy time topping the blueprint alike with a remix, and the underperformance by “Style” reminds us Swift is still mortal. (Both Jackson and Perry denticulate their bristles No. 1s consecutively.) Of course, accustomed that the blueprint almanac is co-owned by her claimed pop nemesis, I wouldn’t put it accomplished Swift to try any tactic—guest rappers, glossy videos, TV stunts, you name it—to accord Perry a scare. In the pop wars, as in Hollywood sequels, no amount is absolved to extend the franchise.
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