Should Have Been Bigger: Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar”

Mike Wass | May 18, 2020 3:28 pm
Album Review: Selena Gomez's 'Rare'
The album formerly known as 'SG2' is an eclectic, pop revelation.

In this franchise, we look back on songs that deserved a little more love and attention.

In years to come, pop fans will fully appreciate the excellence of Selena Gomez’s droplets — a series of stand-alone singles that were released between the Revival and Rare eras. There was the oddball, trap-infused “Fetish,” an unusually elegant club-pop crossover called “Wolves” (still Marshmello’s best song) and the star-studded, Latin smash “Taki Taki.” Oh, and let’s not forget “It Ain’t Me,” “Back To You,” “I Can’t Get Enough” and my favorite, the Talking Heads-sampling, David Byrne-approved “Bad Liar.”

The latter stands out as one of the most experimental bops in Selena’s discography. Even if you put the “Psycho Killer” sample aside, it’s still a thoroughly demented pop song. The stream-of-consciousness lyrics fall from the hitmaker’s mouth like beat poetry, while her breathy delivery pre-dates the current popularity of that style by at least two years. And then there’s the fact that Selena and her long-time collaborators (Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter) had the nerve to rhyme “coy” with “battle of Troy.”

“Tryna play it coy, tryna make it disappear,” the “Lose You To Love Me” chart-topper sings in the opening verse. “But just like the battle of Troy, there’s nothing subtle here.” Instead, Selena is thoroughly obsessed and continues expressing it in the most unique way possible. “In my room there’s a king size space, bigger than it used to be,” she coos. “If you want you can rent that place, call me an amenity.” Producer Ian Kirkpatrick then pulls it all together with a hook-filled chorus, before Selena adds: “With my feelings on fire, guess I’m a bad liar.”

It’s nonchalant, effortless and impossibly catchy. “Bad Liar” was widely praised as an artistic breakthrough by critics, but stalled at number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The fact that something as out-there as “Bad Liar” climbed that far is a testament to the pop star’s popularity). It did, however, become a streaming hit — 400 million on Spotify alone — and changed the industry’s perception of Selena. Revisit the blockbuster video, which found our heroine playing multiple rolls including a gym teacher, below.

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