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Bad Blood

Single (Remix feat. Kendrick Lamar) | 1989 (2014) | 1989 (Taylor's Version) [tbd]

“Bad Blood” is the eighth song on Taylor’s fifth studio album, 1989 (2014). She wrote it about a betrayal by a friend. The remixed version of the song, featuring American rapper Kendrick Lamar, was released on May 17, 2015, as the fourth single from the album and reached  No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Background and Release

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 Taylor’s previous releases. For the majority of 1989, she worked with Swedish producer Max Martin. Martin and his frequent collaborator Shellback produced seven out of thirteen songs on the album’s standard edition, including “Bad Blood”. The album was released in October 2014 to commercial success, selling over one million copies within a week.

Republic Records confirmed in April 2015 that a remix of “Bad Blood” would serve as the fourth single from 1989. The remix version featuring rapper Kendrick Lamar was released on May 17, 2015. The single release was supported by the premiere of its massive music video at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards which featured a lot of Taylor’s famous friends, becoming the first music video to gather a large group of celebrities. “Bad Blood” impacted US contemporary hit radio on May 19, 2015, under Big Machine and Republic Records imprint.

Lyrical Theme

The album version of “Bad Blood” was written by Taylor, Max Martin & Shellback. The lyrics focus on a conflict with an undisclosed female musician. She revealed in a 2014 interview with Rolling Stone that this female peer, whom she had thought of as a friend of hers, attempted to sabotage one of her concert tours by hiring people who worked for her:

«For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not. She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?’ Then last year, the other star crossed a line. She did something so horrible. I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’ And it wasn’t even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational – you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It’s awkward, and I don’t like it.»

Taylor Swift

Feud with Katy Perry

Upon the release of 1989, various media publications speculated that Katy Perry was the subject of the song; Perry seemed to think so herself, resulting in even more tension between them over the following years. They were involved in a heavily publicized feud that received widespread media coverage. Taylor only commented on the song’s lyrics one more time:

«That was about losing a friend…But then people cryptically tweet about what you meant. I never said anything that would point a finger in the specific direction of one specific person, and I can sleep at night knowing that. I knew the song would be assigned to a person, and the easiest mark was someone who I didn’t want to be labeled with this song. It was not a song about heartbreak. It was about the loss of friendship.»

Taylor Swift
In May 2018, Katy sent Taylor a literal olive branch along with a note in which she apologized for her past mistakes. The two have now put their differences aside and are friendly. Katy even made an appearance in Taylor’s music video for “You Need to Calm Down” (2019).

Remix with Kendrick Lamar

The single version of “Bad Blood” incorporates elements of hip hop. It includes two verses written and performed by Kendrick Lamar. He said that Taylor reached out to him regarding the collaboration. “I’ve always been a fan of hers, and she was a fan of my music, and she reached out and we got it done.” Lamar finished his verses in a few takes with Taylor during a studio session in Los Angeles in 2015, recalling that their collaboration went smoothly because “the vibe was right”.

Music Video

“Bad Blood” was supported by a high-budget music video directed by Joseph Kahn and produced by Taylor. It was filmed in Los Angeles on April 12, 2015, and premiered at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards on May 17, 2015. The video features an ensemble cast consisting of singers and fashion models, whose public appearances with Taylor during the subsequent “The 1989 World Tour” led the media to call them Taylor’s “squad”. Each member of the cast chose her character’s name. The cast include (in order of appearance): Catastrophe (Taylor), 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).

Set in a fictional London, the music video starts with Catastrophe (Taylor) 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. Catastrophe is shown being nursed back to health 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 video broke Vevo‘s 24-hour viewing record by accumulating 20.1 million views in its first day of release. It was named the ninth-most iconic pop music video of the 2010s by PopSugar.

Live Performances

At the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor performed “Bad Blood” in a joint performance with Nicki Minaj. Taylor included the song on the set list of “The 1989 World Tour,” which was launched in support of 1989 and ran through 2015. 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).

Critical Reception

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. Mikael Wood from the Los Angeles Times considered “Bad Blood” a generic song where Taylor fails to showcase herself as a distinctive artist, and likened the song’s beat to Katy Perry’s 2013 single “Roar”. 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”. 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.

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. 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”. 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.

Retrospectively, critics have considered “Bad Blood” one of Taylor’s weakest songs in her repertoire. Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone placed the song at the bottom of his 2019 ranking of her whole catalog, describing it as “melodically parched, lyrically unfinished, rhythmically clunky”. In a 2020 ranking of Taylor’s songs, New York writer Nate Jones similarly deemed the song among Taylor’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.”

Commercial Performance

“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 No. 78. Upon its single release, the remix version entered the Hot 100 at No. 53. The following week, the song topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart dated May 24, 2015. Jumping 52 positions to the No. 1 spot, it marked one of the largest jumps to the top in Billboard chart history. “Bad Blood” was Taylor’s fourth Hot 100 No. 1 and 1989‘s third. “Bad Blood” dropped to No. 2 after spending one week at No. 1. It spent five consecutive weeks at No. 2. “Bad Blood” was the 10th-best-selling song of 2015 in the United States, selling 2.584 million digital copies.

The single also topped the charts in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and Scotland. It peaked within the top five on charts of South Africa (2), Lebanon (4), and the United Kingdom (4).

Accolades

“Bad Blood” was nominated for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance,” and won “Best Music Video” at the 58th Annual Grammy Awards in 2016. 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.” The song was one of the awarded songs at the 2016 ASCAP Pop Music Awards and the 2016 BMI Awards, where Taylor became the first woman to win a prize named after its recipient, the “Taylor Swift Award.”

The song received accolades at fan-voted awards such as Teen Choice Awards (including “Choice Music – Collaboration”), MTV Europe Music Awards, Radio Disney Music Awards and the Philippines’ Myx Music Award. Its music video won accolades at the UK Music Video Awards, Mexico’s Telehit Awards and France’s NRJ Music Award.

Taylor's Version

“Bad Blood (Taylor’s Version)”, along with “Message In A Bottle (Taylor’s Version) [From The Vault]“, is featured in the movie DC Super Pets (2022). The song was previously teased in a trailer for the movie in 2021 and was also promoted by Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson ahead of the premiere. Taylor commented on one his TikTok‘s, writing: “Leave it to my friend Dwayne to support the ethically sourced versions of my songs. Good luck with the film!! Ur the man.” Dwayne had voiced Taylor’s character in the music video for “The Man,” Tyler Swift, in 2020.

Lyrics

General Information
ArtistTaylor Swift
Albums1989
1989 (Taylor’s Version)
FeatureKendrick Lamar (Remix)
ReleasedOctober 27, 2014
StudioConway (Los Angeles)
MXM (Stockholm)
GenreElectro Pop
Length3:32
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwritersTaylor Swift
Max Martin
Shellback
Kendrick Lamar (Remix)
ProducersMax Martin
Shellback
Ilya
1989 CHRONOLOGY
I Wish You WouldBad BloodWildest Dreams
Single Certification
Hidden Message
She made friends and enemies
Single Artwork
Instagram Teaser
Taylor & Kendrick
Music Video
Live Performance
Official Audio
Official Remix