I finally was able to watch the “Bad Blood” video today, and all I can say is…I don’t get it?
I’m a big Taylor Swift fan. Wait wait, back up. You’re a man, Jarred, and men who don’t own record labels aren’t supposed to fly right out the gate proclaiming respect and admiration of her. Or, you know, any woman. But it’s for real; blah blah gender expectations blah blah machismo culture, I don’t care, I love her. I mean her music… The 1989 album had to grow on me because it was such a leap from the music on the previous album Red, I thought. But once I stopped whining about that, I started to recognize the greatness pouring forth from the album. The harmonies, the big-big-big production style only found on the most believed-in of pop offerings, the mature musicality of her voice (favorite moment of the entire album: On the track “Wonderland”, her throat squeal starting the big crescendo leading right into the last chorus—that is goosebump stuff right there), all make for a hell of a good time. I only dislike one song on it, and if you have the album, you probably agree with me. It’s the first one. After that, it’s damn near flawless.
And “Bad Blood” is one of the best tracks of all. This song takes a subject matter that usually wouldn’t feel very cool—bad blood where there once was mad love, or whatever the hell that might mean in real life—yet presents it in a way that is so fun to jam to and sing along with when there’s no one else in the car to judge you. Okay, I’m a 30-year-old man, so I can’t quite reach all the notes, but I STILL TRY, Y’ALL. This is owed to the song’s simplicity: a common chord progression you’ve heard millions of times, easy lyrics, Taylor repeatedly screaming “HEY!” at you, a thumping beat that you have to move to, it’s all there. (*Note: The acute ears of drummers like myself, and/or people high as a lost birthday balloon, will pick up the subtle percussion changes in each section of the song. A new tambourine here, a “I hear it from somewhere across the gymnasium” clave there. You’re welcome.) If you don’t want to groove to this song, you must be DEAD! But shit, y’all, even Bernie bounced a bit when his song came on.
So imagine my excitement when I found out a “Bad Blood” video was in the works. Then imagine it deflating a little when I saw Hayley Williams on the roster with her “I pinky swear I’m punk rock” hair, and then to rock-bottom disappointment when Lena “I became a pretentious feminist when I realized I had no reason to have self-esteem” Dunham showed up.
Of course, none of that even matters because the video is crammed so full of celebrities and sci-fi homage and explosions and weapons and one English bulldog that it is hardly a music video at all. Granted, it opens up with Taylor suddenly dropping some cool, acrobatic and violent moves that I just wish to holy crap in hell will she please just come do that to me. That wasn’t even a sentence. THAT’S how hot this woman is throughout the thing. But then the video gets so visually busy and cameo-centric that it loses any coherence and cohesiveness it may have been intended to have.
My other gripe is that it’s actually a remix, featuring Kendrick Lamar so heavily that it may as well be his song. Two whole verses feels too much for a “feature”, plus he is surrounded by so many—more or less—hot women and futuristic set pieces I have no idea what he’s rapping about. Music-wise, the song has been tweaked so hard for the remix that it seems to have lost the backbone of the album original. Incessant 32nd-notes on the hi hat and heavy synths pile on the distortion and audial motion sickness to the unglued, “black leather is the new black” world of the video.
With such a cast, all with their own assassin or criminal-like aliases, I expected maybe an extended video with a storyline, like when Mariah Carey was kidnapped by Eddie Griffin, or Killer Mike and El-P went on a bloody rampage through an apartment building, or…almost any Michael Jackson video. Instead we got a Kendrick Lamar song sampling “Bad Blood”, with droves of famous women doing their best macho posturing, and a big facefull of “What the hell is even going on here??”
And I don’t believe the hype about subtle jabs at Katy Perry. Although, if there had been some, this video might feel more meaningful.
But Taylor Swift, damn, she’s a force.