Thursday, June 1st, 2017

Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

Qu’est-ce que c’est?


Claire Biddles: That borrowed Talking Heads bassline works so well in the context of contemporary pop that I’m amazed it hasn’t been used before. In “Bad Liar,” the paranoid creeping of “Psycho Killer” is twisted into coquettish flirting, but I wish the excellent tentative almost-spoken verse built up to a recognisable hook or chorus, rather than an empty punchline. Still, this is sexy and fun, and I’ll probably play it tonnes over the summer.

Katherine St Asaph: Given that Top 40 radio is a nonstop supercut of variations on tropical hell, one cherishes the novelties that make it through. Like, Bruno Mars is reliable; no matter what R&B corpse he re-animates how shamelessly, it will sound like nothing playlisted before or after it. And as ludicrous as Harry Styles’ Mick Jagger cosplay is, at least it, too, sounds like nothing on the radio. But who would have thought Selena Gomez would be an outlier? The Talking Heads sample is great, but predictably so. What makes “Bad Liar” is how unpredictable its referents are. Much — too much, given her prior work — has been made of Selena Gomez’s supposed vocal limitations, but her delivery’s perfect for “Bad Liar”‘s introvert in a feedback loop of shame-crush, latching onto the closest brilliant bassline for borrowed confidence; the effect’s a little like Christine and the Queens. The verses evoke the twitterpated word-vomit of Maria Mena’s “You’re the Only One,” which also felt like a sugarcube dropped into pop radio. With stream-of-consciousness like that you get Trojan clunkers, but you also get perfection like “if you want you can rent that place, call me an amenity, even if it’s in my dreams,” a whiplash from coyness to self-loathing to wishful thinking much like Transister’s similarly obsessive “Head.” It’s the greatest Carly Rae Jepsen single Carly Rae Jepsen is too far gone maximalist to ever release; it’s a damn good thing for my hopes of having listened to anything else that this didn’t come out in [SPECIFIC MONTHS LOST TO CRUSH REDACTED].

Ryo Miyauchi: “Bad Liar” sounds like “Hands to Myself” turned inside out with the awkward insert of “I mean I could but why would I want to?” of the latter as the former’s main form of delivery. Her clunky speech makes more sense narrative-wise in this flustered pop where she’s way too occupied to keep beat. Perhaps she’s taking cue of Talking Heads’ nervous stiffness as much as their bass line.

Micha Cavaseno: There’s nothing in particular about “Bad Liar” to pinpoint about why it feels just so weird. Yes, there’s the crisp and spartan production which does bear a certain resemblance to the beat and brittle quality of “Psycho Killer”. You also have Gomez’s conversational mumble of a murmur, vocal tone sounding like the rubber stopper on cheap chairs squeaking against linoleum floors (in a good way), occasionally processed into dazed vocal space-outs. It’s got a slackness despite all of the rhythmic tension that refuses to either become purely laconic or tight, and with that weird sort of in-between you’ve got something that truly doesn’t resemble anything you’d expect to hear nowadays.

Thomas Inskeep: Best vocal of her career. Best single of her career. Best song of her career. And certainly the most surprising: I might not’ve caught the bassline sample unless I’d already read about it. Gomez is big enough now that she could’ve gone down any “one size fits all” route with a new single and been rewarded with a summertime smash. But instead, to her credit, she swerved where it wasn’t expected. This is jagged pop, underproduced in the best way, and basically a success across the board. Which might be the most surprising thing of all. 

Ramzi Awn: The most impressive thing about “Bad Liar” is that Selena Gomez now has a brand. A perfectly good ear worm cloying enough to justify its crush, the single was the top streamer on Spotify upon its release, and it’s easy to hear why. Ms. Gomez, a co-writer of the song, is carrying a mature career on her shoulders, and “Bad Liar” helps to establish her as a true contender in the business of making music. Featuring Ian Kirkpatrick, who wrote and produced one of Britney Spears’ strongest songs of late (“If I’m Dancing” off the recent Glory), her vocals are on point, and the song is made for earbuds on the beach. 

William John: Selena Gomez’ vocals are often criticised for their bloodlessness, but in the midst of the foggy doom of “Good For You,”, or at the moment where the coquettish verses to “Hands To Myself” are interrupted by the bridge’s ominous synth, they provided successful contrast. The production on “Bad Liar,” unfortunately, is far less striking. The chorus instrumentation in particular sounds like something from a fifteen-second web advertisement for private health insurance or home loans. Whether the Talking Heads sample is intended to signify obtuseness or a reverence to art rock royalty, or a combination of the two, I’m not sure. In any event the song’s vacant dullness overrides any kudos it earns.

Alfred Soto: Stumbling up the sidewalks of a city, like the anonymous frightened person in Suzanne Vega’s “In Liverpool,” trying to immerse in her Spotify playlist, the character in “Bad Liar” interrupts herself with asides, rewritten statements, and ebullient admissions (it helps that I thought she said “Guess I’m a bad lawyer”). The detritus of pop culture: musical cues from Laurie Anderson and Talking Heads compete with hand claps and a throwaway about the fall of Troy. A genuine wtf moment.

Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: The “Psycho Killer” bassline is an attention grabber, for sure, but it’s Selena’s incredibly confident, breezy, sultry delivery that turns this into an absolute Song of the Summer candidate. “Bad Liar” sees Gomez doubling down on the soft-but-solid approach of previous single “Hands to Myself,” and boy does it pay off. Gomez’ singles track record is one of the finest in mainstream pop, and every release plays to her fundamental strengths — her mild, charming tone, especially — without being too repetitive. “Bad Liar” feels like those elements have been finally taken to the highest point — it’s the sound of consecration. 

Stephen Eisermann: Having been referred to as “extra” and “the most” many times in my life, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that I love this song. It’s campy and try-hard, yes, but I choose to believe this is what Selena was going for. I mean, she can’t actually think anyone buys these faux-clever lyrics (lol at the Battle of Troy reference) and anime-character affect she’s put on her voice, right? And even if she does, this is something I can groove to and her attempt at actually singing after the second chorus reminds me of one too many of my failed shower belting attempts, so that makes this… relatable? What I’m trying to say is: I know this is bad, but it’s a serious guilty pleasure and has secured a spot on my summer playlist, much to the chagrin of my friends, I’m sure.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: Producer Ian Kirkpatrick fills the dead space on “Bad Liar” with just enough musical quirks to keep your brain entertained as it’s lodged into the “Psycho Killer” bass groove. He doubles down on the minimalism that was explored on “Hands to Myself” while striving for a mood that’s just as tantalizing. The miracle here is that he succeeds in spite of Selena Gomez’s anonymity, something that’s plagued her since day one. Her presence is retooled such that her vocal affectations and winding melodies are reduced to their bare musical elements. When a song privileges that over anything else, and extracts every bit of driving momentum possible thereafter, you get a bonafide dance hit. And as such, this should be played LOUDLY.

Will Adams: Following in the sonic concept that made “Hands to Myself” great — immediate closeness via minimal reverb and clipped percussion — “Bad Liar” finds Selena Gomez whispering to herself in a tight space, her emotions slowly chipping away at the walls around her. The pivotal moment comes when she unexpectedly bursts out with “Oh, baby let’s make!” and the walls implode. If ever there were a sound to describe the knee-shaking anxiety of a crush forcing you to show your hand, this is it.

Mo Kim: Most of the points are for that blood rush of a chorus, “i’mtryingi’mtryingi’mtryingi’mtryingi’m trying” one of the most simple and effective earworms I’ve heard all year. But there are small pleasures to be found in every corner of “Bad Liar,” from the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it allusion to the Battle of Troy (like, what?) to the moment on the bridge Gomez’s voice swells into barren want on “OH BABY LET’S MAKE” before snapping back into the same register of studied indifference she’s been playing for the entire song. It’s a remarkably rich emotional portrait, wrought from little more than a clever hook and some very smart vocal choices; more importantly it’s a song that’ll sound as crisp in winter as it does now in the throes of summer.

Hannah Jocelyn: Michaels/Tranter/Gomez, with producer Ian Kirkpatrick, create something obtuse but mesmerizing, with handclaps, vocal layers, and that inspired Talking Heads sample coalescing into an extended reverse-onomatopoeia for “bop.” Michaels and Tranter recently worked on Linkin Park’s underwhelming One More Lights, and it makes me wonder if Gomez was always the secret ingredient; everyone seems to bring out the best in each other here. There’s Michaels’ quirky way with a phrase (what even is the “battle of Troy” line?), Tranter’s campy humor (leave him alone for five seconds and he’s off writing “Cake By The Ocean”!), and Selena’s thin, flexible voice that reshapes itself, Dollhouse-style, into whatever it needs to be for a given song. The initial online reaction was that Selena went ‘experimental’ here, but that’s not fully accurate — in fact, it’s highly reminiscent of Regina Spektor’s more polished music. It’s not until the final minute, where Selena moans that “oHh bAaby” line, that “Bad Liar” truly comes into its own, and the trio reaches its current apex as a team.

Reader average: [8.82] (51 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

5 Responses to “Selena Gomez – Bad Liar”

  1. One of the best songs released this year. I like hearing new and different sounds. It rarely happens in this age.

  2. welcome to Joshua and Stephen!! : )

  3. Not to undermine, but Katherine’s Christine & The Queens had me wondering what I was constantly comparing this to, and I realized this sounds like a much more flatter (emotionally, not sonically) version of Camille’s “Ta Douleur”

  4. while we’re here, holy hell is “You’re the Only One” exactly on the mark

  5. This should be on the sidebar!! And it’s also the fifth [7.29] this year (too low, in my opinion).