Restraint evidently isn’t one of Selena Gomez‘s strong suits, which is working in our favor.
As the former frontwoman of The Scene, the “Rock God” belter surely knows a thing or two about the history of New Wave, which is why it is of no surprise that her latest single “Bad Liar,” out today (May 18), borrows from the bass line of 1977’s “Psycho Killer,” one of the earliest offerings by The Talking Heads.
But apart from her illustrious rock career, Selena also happens to make great pop.
Produced by Ian Kirkpatrick, the mastermind behind some of the quirkiest standouts on Britney‘s Glory, “If I’m Dancing” and “Hard to Forget Ya,” and co-penned with the trusty Revival songwriting dream team Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, “Bad Liar” is a refreshingly weird serving from the post-Disney princess who is, slowly but surely, carving out her own niche and becoming one of the acts to lead the sound of modern pop.
The song plays like an even more featherlight companion to Selena’s late 2015-to-early 2016 Top 10 hit “Hands to Myself,” propelled forward by a similar soft hand-clapping, finger-snapping beat, albeit with slightly different bells, whistles and Talking Heads.
Unlike her contemporary Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez will never be accused of sounding too much like Mariah Carey. Nor will she go down as the Celine Dion of our generation — although “Off the Chain” is surely the “Power of Love” of our time.
Yet there’s no denying that what Selena can do with her limited voice is emote, especially now that she’s found her sweet, breathy spot. Her ASMR-ready delivery on “Bad Liar” is praiseworthy; the sweet coos of “Oooo, every time I watch you serpentine,” the mumbling of “if you’re the art, I’ll be the brush,” the yelps of “oh baby, let’s make…” in the bridge. She does more with less, which is preferable compared to more vocally gifted acts who do far too much.
Once again, Selena, Justin and Julia strike with that what’d-she-just-say brand of lyricism that made several Revival songs special: “Just like the Battle of Troy, there’s nothing subtle here” is the “metaphorical gin and juice” of “Bad Liar.”
It’s the little things that count, in both the song and the video: like switching the channel from Wizards of Waverly Place to Spring Breakers, there’s something jarring about the visual for “Bad Liar.” She’s wearing a “Fall Risk” bracelet, as the Internet was quick to notice — not to generate some 13 Reasons Why-like controversy, but because she went directly to the shoot from the hospital, where she was being treated for lupus. It’s an occasionally distracting detail, but that’s probably the point: this is her reality now.
Writhing in bed with her hands bound in ribbon, the video treatment is intriguingly “off” and occasionally almost uncomfortable, falling somewhere between sexual, subservient and borderline stalker-ish — which isn’t all that far off from the concept of “Hands to Myself.”
At this point, Selena’s resorting to physical measures to keep those hands to herself. She’s trying, she’s trying, she’s trying. Do we try to help distract her from this seemingly ceaseless lust? I mean, we could. But why would we want to?