Pop Life

Taylor Swift & Kendrick Lamar's 'Bad Blood': Why This Song Sucks

The Billboard Music Awards are an event. They don’t necessarily fall in the rotation of peak award-show television like the Super Bowl, Grammys and Oscars, but they do matter.

They matter in a social-media world where Miguel attempting to leap over a crowd and accidentally delivering a Hulk Hogan leg-drop on a fan can occur. They matter when Kanye West can perform a song sans rehearsing and be censored for almost the entire thing. They can also deliver us a glimpse into the pop apocalypse, like Kendrick Lamar's offering a verse or two(!) to Taylor Swift for her new single, “Bad Blood." The song, its trolling video and everything else about it absolutely suck. $3 million worth of suck, to be exact.

If you need a refresher course on why two completely separate elements of superstardom need not coexist in the same universe, here are a few pointers.

Kendrick Lamar is currently the best rapper on the planet in terms of converting technical skill and a pointed message to a larger audience. His last album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is the most acclaimed rap release of the year thus far.

Taylor Swift is the biggest-selling female pop star in existence right now, registering three consecutive albums at more than 1 million copies sold in the first week. The moment she drove away from being a country girl from Tennessee, she became a global sensation.

“Bad Blood” really is a pop Kendrick Lamar song with Taylor Swift along just for shits and giggles. Because I’ve done something you shouldn’t and watched the video on more than two occasions, here’s the basic idea of a plot: Swift is Catastrophe, some sort of secret spy who cheesily fights a bunch of random NPCs alongside Arsyn (played by Selena Gomez) before she gets betrayed by her. Gomez kicks Swift through a window, Swift has to go through some kind of Fifth Element-style reprogramming before a bunch of random people and Kendrick Lamar as Morpheus help her get back to fighting Selena Gomez again.

That’s as good as I can detail the “Bad Blood” video between its two main stars. Its co-stars are famous in other areas; here, they populate a bloated, Divergent-style clip that feels like Michael Bay masturbated all over the place. Try to pay attention to it, and it makes zero sense. The point is that Swift and Lamar's co-stars are not as famous as they are, so we’ll let this chart explain that.

Mariska Hargitay is the third most famous person in the video, because EVERYBODY has seen an episode of Law & Order: SVU somewhere — NBC, Netflix, TNT, USA, Twitter, YouTube, etc. You don’t ever beat Detective Benson unless you’re über-famous right now. Sorry, Cindy Crawford and Jessica Alba, but Lena Dunham, I’m definitely not apologizing to you.

So many parts to “Bad Blood” are unnecessary as hell, video-wise. As a song, it’s completely mislabeled. Why did Kendrick sign off on this? It couldn’t be because Taylor Swift deliberately attempts to learn every song before every award show to look cool. Or that Vine of her rapping “Backseat Freestyle” when her album went No. 1. It can’t be because of Vine, can it?

Before “Bad Blood,” Kendrick Lamar had a running streak of absolute can’t-miss moments dating back to that Robin Thicke video with 2 Chainz after “Blurred Lines" came out. The “Control” verse happened. TPAB happened. That “Untitled” song that he performed on Colbert happened. This was supposed to be Kendrick pulling Taylor Swift into his orbit and not the other way around.

“Bad Blood” sounds like sea otters struggling to find their way back home, complete with mailed-in punch lines about love being war and carrying scars with you the rest of your life. That is Mean Girls logic, Taylor. You can’t give us Mean Girls songs forever, can you? (PS: “Shake It Off” is an infinitely better “Mean Girls” song.") It sounds like the Clippers trying to figure out their lives after losing Game 6 in the Western Conference Semifinals.

Let us forever remember “Bad Blood” as the one time in life that Taylor Swift attempted to ruin Kendrick Lamar for us by sticking him in a video with Lena Dunham. Let it be a reminder than when you do big-budget music videos, they can turn out like Diddy’s “Victory” video in 1997. Let them never, ever be like Michael Bay explosion porn.

“Bad Blood” is a terrible, terrible Pat Benatar song with an even more infuriating and problematic video. I now have to cry myself to sleep over it.

Note: We love you, Shea.

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Brandon Caldwell has been writing about music and news for the Houston Press since 2011. His work has also appeared in Complex, Noisey, the Village Voice & more.
Contact: Brandon Caldwell