Bad Blood (Taylor Swift song)

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"Bad Blood"
A black-and-white portrait of Taylor Swift. She is wearing a leather suit, her hair tied back, and dark eye makeup. The song's title is printed in red, capital letters. The artists' names, "Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar", and the lyric "Band-aids don't fix bullet holes" are printed in white, smaller fonts.
Single by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
from the album 1989
ReleasedMay 17, 2015 (2015-05-17)
Studio
  • MXM (Stockholm, Sweden)
  • Conway (Los Angeles)
Genre
Length
  • 3:19 (single version)
  • 3:31 (album version)
Label
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Taylor Swift singles chronology
"Style"
(2015)
"Bad Blood"
(2015)
"Wildest Dreams"
(2015)
Kendrick Lamar singles chronology
"King Kunta"
(2015)
"Bad Blood"
(2015)
"Alright"
(2015)
Music video
"Bad Blood" on YouTube

"Bad Blood" is a song by American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, taken from her fifth studio album 1989 (2014). Swift wrote the song with its producers Max Martin and Shellback. The album version is a pop song with stomping drums talking about betrayal by a close friend. Upon the release of 1989, media outlets speculated that the song was about Katy Perry, with whom Swift was involved in a feud that received widespread media coverage. Critics received "Bad Blood" with mixed reviews—some criticized the repetitive lyrics and generic production, while others considered the song one of the album's highlights.

A remix version of "Bad Blood" featuring American rapper Kendrick Lamar was released as the fourth single from 1989 on May 17, 2015, by Big Machine and Republic Records. The remix version received praise for Lamar's verses and the reworked instrumentation, but some critics considered Lamar—known for his aggressive flow—out of place on a pop song. "Bad Blood" was supported by a high-budget music video, which was directed by Joseph Kahn and produced by Swift. The video features an ensemble cast consisting of singers and fashion models whom the media called Swift's "squad", and received media coverage for its futuristic production inspired by neo-noir styles. It won a Grammy Award for Best Music Video, and two MTV Video Music Awards for Video of the Year and Best Collaboration.

"Bad Blood" was a chart success, reaching number one on record charts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Scotland. In the United States, the single peaked atop the Billboard Hot 100 and two Billboard airplay charts, Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40. It received multi-platinum certifications in Australia, Canada, and the United States. The song received a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Retrospectively, critics have panned "Bad Blood" as one of the weakest songs in Swift's catalog, feeling that it fails to showcase Swift's ability as a songwriter.

Background and release[edit]

Taylor Swift's fifth studio album, 1989, was inspired by 1980s synth-pop. The album's electronic production using synthesizers, programmed drums, and processed backing vocals marked a departure from the country styles of her previous releases.[1][2][3] On 1989, Swift and Swedish producer Max Martin served as executive producers.[2] Martin and his frequent collaborator Shellback produced seven out of thirteen songs on the album's standard edition, including "Bad Blood".[4] The album was released in October 2014 to commercial success, selling over one million copies within a week.[3]

Republic Records confirmed in April 2015 that a remix of "Bad Blood" would serve as the fourth single from 1989.[5] The remix version featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar was released on May 17, 2015, for digital download by Big Machine Records.[6] The single release was supported by the premiere of its music video at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards.[7] "Bad Blood" impacted US contemporary hit radio on May 19, 2015, under Big Machine and Republic Records imprint.[8] The song was released to European contemporary hit radio on June 12, 2015, through Universal Music Group.[9][10]

Writing and composition[edit]

Swift wrote "Bad Blood" about an undisclosed female musician. She revealed in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone that this female peer, whom she had thought of as a close friend of hers, attempted to sabotage one of her concert tours by hiring people who worked for her.[11] Upon the release of 1989, various media publications speculated that Katy Perry was the subject of the song; Perry and Swift were involved in a heavily publicized feud that received widespread media coverage.[12][13][14] Several publications including Time and The Washington Post noted parallels between the lyric "If you live like that, you live with ghosts" in "Bad Blood" and the title of "Ghost", a song from Perry's 2013 album Prism.[13][14] Some critics initially interpreted "Bad Blood" to be about lost romance, which is the central theme of 1989.[15]

"Bad Blood" was recorded by Sam Holland at Conway Recording Studios in Los Angeles, and by Michael Ilbert at MXM Studios in Stockholm, Sweden. The song was mixed by Serban Ghenea at Mixstar Studios in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and mastered by Tom Coyne at Sterling Sound Studio in New York.[4] It is a pop track featuring heavy, stomping drums. Jem Aswad of Billboard compared its stomping beats to those of Gwen Stefani's 2005 single "Hollaback Girl",[16] while The Observer's Kitty Empire likened the production to that of English singer Charli XCX.[17] The chorus consists of repetitive phrases, "Now we got bad blood / You know it used to be mad love," sung by Swift with tense vocals over surging keyboard tones.[18] Swift resents her former friend for having betrayed her, through lyrics such as "These kinda wounds, they last and they last," and "Band-aids don't fix bullet holes / You say sorry just for show."[19]

The single version incorporates elements of hip hop. It includes two verses written and performed by Lamar.[20][21] Lamar finished his verses in a few takes with Swift during a studio session in Los Angeles, recalling that their collaboration went smoothly because "the vibe was right".[22] He told Rolling Stone in 2017 that he was unaware of the publicized feud between Swift and Perry, saying, "That's far beyond my concern. I have to stay away from that, for sure."[23] The remix saw additional production from Ilya Salmanzadeh, who incorporated a deeper bass.[21]

Critical reception[edit]

A portrait of Lamar, an African-American man. He is wearing a cornrow hairstyle, an embroidered shirt and a gold necklace
Some critics praised Kendrick Lamar's appearance on the single version.

The album version of "Bad Blood" was met with mixed reviews from critics, many of whom singled it out as the weakest song on 1989.[24] Mike Diver from Clash described the song as "a litany of diary-page break-up clichés set to directionless thumps and fuzzes".[25] Mikael Wood from the Los Angeles Times considered "Bad Blood" a generic song where Swift fails to showcase herself as a distinctive artist, and likened the song's beat to Katy Perry's 2013 single "Roar".[26] Spin's Andrew Unterberger called the song "disappointingly bland" as it fails to showcase Swift's traditionally vivid songwriting.[27] Writing for New York magazine, Lindsay Zoladz felt that the song represented "brainless, evil pop" that Swift had disdained, and unfavorably likened the production to the music of Katy Perry's 2013 album Prism.[28]

On a more positive side, The Quietus writer Amy Pettifier considered "Bad Blood" one of the songs on 1989 that are "crammed with merit", calling it "all sass and bile".[29] Entertainment Weekly's Adam Markovitz said that the track had potentials to become a chart success and listed it as one of the best songs on the album.[30] Consequence of Sound reviewer Sasha Geffen applauded the song's heavy hip hop beats and deep basslines resulting in a defiant tune that represented Swift's new attitude, calling its production "the tightest turns Swift has ever cut".[19] Robert Leedham from Drowned in Sound highlighted the song's "proud defiance" that recalled "iconic hardcore bands you've probably never heard of".[31]

The remix version received praise for Lamar's guest verses and the reworked instrumental. Meanwhile, some critics felt that Lamar's radio-friendly verses were unusual of his well-known aggressive flow.[32][33] George Seabrook of The Edge awarded the song four and half stars out of five, praising Lamar's verses as "brutally effective" and acknowledging the collaboration as "not just one more meaningless stunt collaboration, but a powerful new duo".[34] Alexis Petridis of The Guardian dubbed the single "a masterstroke" with "potent and effective" verses from Lamar and an "even more anthemic" chorus compared to the album version.[35]

Retrospectively, critics have considered "Bad Blood" one of Swift's weakest songs in her repertoire. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone placed the song at the bottom of his 2019 ranking of Swift's whole catalog, describing it as "melodically parched, lyrically unfinished, rhythmically clunky".[36] Paste's Jane Song wrote that they wished "the song hadn't been released as a single, even with Kendrick's verse".[37] In a 2020 ranking of Swift's songs, New York writer Nate Jones similarly deemed the song among Swift's worst, writing, "The lyric here indulges the worst habits of late-period Swift – an eagerness to play the victim, a slight lack of resemblance to anything approaching real life – attached to a schoolyard-chant melody that will never leave your head, even when you may want it to." Jones also disliked the remix version for "[hollowing] out the production".[38]

Commercial performance[edit]

"Bad Blood" first charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in November 2014 and January 2015 as an album cut from 1989, peaking at number 78.[39] Upon its single release, the remix version entered the Hot 100 at number 53 and the Digital Songs chart at number 26, selling 47,000 digital copies.[39] The following week, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated May 24, 2015, earning 385,000 digital copies in sales, 18.1 million streams, and 57 million radio impressions.[40] Jumping 52 positions to the number-one spot, it marked one of the largest jumps to the top in Billboard chart history.[40] "Bad Blood" was Swift's fourth Hot 100 number one and 1989's third, making Swift the first artist since Adele with her 2011 album 21 to yield three chart toppers from the same album.[40] It was Lamar's first number one and second top-10 entry.[40]

"Bad Blood" dropped to number two after spending one week at number one.[41] It spent five consecutive weeks at number two.[42] The single was successful on Billboard component airplay-focused charts. It reached number one on the Mainstream Top 40 chart, a pop-focused airplay chart, in its fifth charting week.[43] It was the fastest song to top the chart since Nelly's "Over and Over" (2004) featuring Tim McGraw, which spent three weeks before ascending to the number-one spot.[43] The single additionally peaked atop the Adult Top 40 chart.[44] "Bad Blood" was the 10th-best-selling song of 2015 in the United States, selling 2.584 million digital copies.[45] The single has been certified 6× Platinum, based on sales and on-demand streams, by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).[46] By July 2019, it had sold 3.2 million digital copies in the United States.[47]

The single also topped the charts in Australia,[48] Canada,[49] New Zealand,[50] and Scotland.[51] It peaked within the top five on charts of South Africa (two),[52] Lebanon (four),[53] and the United Kingdom (four).[54] "Bad Blood" has received multi-platinum certifications in Australia (3× Platinum) and Canada (3× Platinum), platinum certification in the United Kingdom,[55] and gold in New Zealand.[56]

Music video[edit]

Development and production[edit]

A portrait of Gomez, a Hispanic woman with long hair wearing a black dress smiling at the camera
Selena Gomez appears as Arsyn, the antagonist in the video's narrative.

"Bad Blood" was supported by a high-budget music video directed by Joseph Kahn and produced by Swift. It was filmed in Los Angeles on April 12, 2015, and premiered at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards on May 17, 2015.[57] The video features an ensemble cast consisting of singers and fashion models, whose public appearances with Swift during the subsequent 1989 World Tour led the media to call them Swift's "squad".[58] Each member of the cast chose her character's name.[59] The cast include (in order of appearance): Catastrophe (Swift), Arsyn (Selena Gomez), Welvin da Great (Lamar), Lucky Fiori (Lena Dunham), The Trinity (Hailee Steinfeld), Dilemma (Serayah), Slay-Z (Gigi Hadid), Destructa X (Ellie Goulding), Homeslice (Martha Hunt), Mother Chucker (Cara Delevingne), Cut Throat (Zendaya), The Crimson Curse (Hayley Williams), Frostbyte (Lily Aldridge), Knockout (Karlie Kloss), Domino (Jessica Alba), Justice (Mariska Hargitay), Luna (Ellen Pompeo), and Headmistress (Cindy Crawford).[59]

Set in a fictional London, the music video starts with Catastrophe (Swift) and her partner, Arsyn (Gomez), fighting off a group of men in a corporate office for a mysterious briefcase. When all of the men are defeated, Arsyn double crosses Catastrophe by stealing the briefcase in her hand and kicking her out of a window. The song begins with Catastrophe lying on a broken car, as Welvin da Great begins his rap verse and Lucky Fiori smokes a cigar. Catastrophe is shown being nursed back to health by a trio of girls called The Trinity, and after some time, she is ready to start training for her revenge. When her training is complete, Catastrophe and her friends strike out to exact their revenge on Arsyn and her masked henchwomen. The two teams approach each other in what seems to be slow motion while an enormous explosion goes off in the background, blotting out the London skyline, and the video ends with Catastrophe and Arsyn simultaneously striking each other in the face.[60]

Reception[edit]

The video received positive feedback regarding its production and styling, with comments pointing out several references to action movies. Rolling Stone described it as a "futuristic neo-noir" video.[59] Daniel D'Addario of Time called it Swift's "most elaborate" music video yet, and compared its visuals to those of Sin City.[61] Slate agreed and found other film inspirations: "Along the way, they pay homage to countless films. Besides the video's Robocop premise, there's its Sin City aesthetic, its nod to Tron's light cycles, and its Kill Bill-like fight in the snow."[62] Billboard drew parallels between the video and the music videos for the Britney Spears songs "Toxic" and "Womanizer", which were both directed by Kahn.[63] The video broke Vevo's 24-hour viewing record by accumulating 20.1 million views in its first day of release,[64] which was later broken by Adele's "Hello" in October 2015, with 27.7 million views in the first 24 hours.[65] The video was named the ninth-most iconic pop music video of the 2010s by PopSugar.[66]

The video's content, allegedly to be about Swift's feud with Katy Perry, drew criticism from several commentators regarding its supposedly anti-feminist message contradicting Swift's feminist identity.[58][67] Jennifer Gannon from The Irish Times observed that Swift's celebrity friends were a tool for her to build a cult of personality rather than female empowerment, writing: "Her intentions may be honourable but tangled up within this complicated web of victimhood and tired gossip is her own form of girl power."[68] The Atlantic's Spencer Kornharber defended the video, describing it as Swift's effort to counterattack "old stereotypes about women as inherently catty ... and that females must necessarily compete for the top spot in arenas from music to dating".[69] Hannelore Roth, a literature professor, acknowledged Swift's feminist identity, but argued that the cast featured in the video implied that feminism is only accessible to rich and attractive women. Roth also noted that, since Welvin da Great (Lamar's character) appears to be the ringleader behind these women, the video proves to be "just a violent, pre-modern copy of the patriarchal structures at the office".[70]

Accolades[edit]

"Bad Blood" was nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and won Best Music Video at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards in 2016.[71] At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, the music video for "Bad Blood" received eight nominations and won two: Video of the Year and Best Collaboration.[72] The song was one of the awarded songs at the 2016 ASCAP Pop Music Awards[73] and the 2016 BMI Awards, where Swift became the first woman to win a prize named after its recipient, the Taylor Swift Award.[74]

The song received accolades at fan-voted awards such as Teen Choice Awards (including Choice Music - Collaboration),[75] MTV Europe Music Awards,[76] Radio Disney Music Awards[77] and the Philippines' Myx Music Award.[78] It received nominations at the American Music Awards (for Collaboration of the Year),[79] People's Choice Awards,[80] Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards[81] and iHeartRadio Music Awards.[82] Its music video won accolades at the UK Music Video Awards,[83] Mexico's Telehit Awards[84] and France's NRJ Music Award.[85]

Live performances and other usage[edit]

Swift performing wearing a leather bodysuit
Swift performing "Bad Blood" on the 1989 World Tour

At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Swift performed "Bad Blood" in a joint performance with Nicki Minaj; the two also performed "Trini Dem Girls" and "The Night Is Still Young", taken from Minaj's album The Pinkprint (2014).[86] Swift included "Bad Blood" on the set list of the 1989 World Tour, which was launched in support of 1989 and ran through 2015.[87] She also included the song on the set list for her 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour, where she performed it as part of a medley with her previous single "Should've Said No" (2008).[88]

The song has been featured in several occasions. English rock band Drenge covered the song for BBC Radio 1's live session on June 23, 2015.[89] The animated web series How It Should Have Ended released a parody video based on "Bad Blood", titled "Bat Blood", in September 2015. "Bat Blood" parodies the marketing of the 2015 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.[90] Anthony Rizzo of the Chicago Cubs used "Bad Blood" as one of his walk-up songs during the team's 2015 and 2016 seasons.[91][92] Canadian rapper-singer Drake included the song in his advertisement for Apple Music in November 2016.[93]

Rock singer Ryan Adams covered "Bad Blood" as part of his track-by-track interpretation of Swift's 1989. Adams's version is a guitar-driven alt-country song, as opposed to the original's electronic production.[94] He released "Bad Blood" as a single preceding the release of his 1989 cover on September 17, 2015, through Apple Music's Beats 1 radio.[95] Andrew Unterberger from Spin preferred Adams's stripped-down version to Swift's original song,[96] and Annie Zaleski of The A.V. Club called it "the quintessential Adams-style alt-country shuffle."[97] Adams's "Bad Blood" peaked at number 25 on the Ultratop chart of Belgian Wallonia,[98] and number 36 on Billboard's Rock Airplay chart.[99]

Credits and personnel[edit]

Credits for the album version are adapted from liner notes of 1989, and credits for the remix version are adapted from Tidal.[4][100]

  • Taylor Swift – lead vocals, backing vocals, songwriter
  • Kendrick Lamar[a] – featured vocals, backing vocals, songwriter
  • Max Martin – producer, songwriter, programmer, keyboards, piano
  • Shellback – backing vocals, producer, songwriter, programmer, acoustic guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion, sounds (stomps and knees)
  • Ilya Salmanzadeh[a] – backing vocals, producer, programmer, recording engineer, studio personnel
  • Michael Ilbert – recording engineer, studio personnel
  • Sam Holland – recording engineer, studio personnel
  • Ben Sedano – assistant recording engineer, studio personnel
  • Cory Bice – assistant recording engineer, studio personnel
  • Peter Carlsson – Pro Tools engineer, studio personnel
  • Serban Ghenea – mixing engineer, studio personnel
  • John Hanes – mixer, studio personnel
  • Tom Coyne – mastering engineer, studio personnel

Charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Australia (ARIA)[139] 3× Platinum 210,000^
Canada (Music Canada)[140] 3× Platinum 240,000*
New Zealand (RMNZ)[56] Gold 7,500*
Norway (IFPI Norway)[141] Platinum 60,000double-dagger
United Kingdom (BPI)[55] Platinum 600,000double-dagger
United States (RIAA)[46] 6× Platinum 3,200,000[47]

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Remix version

Citations[edit]

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