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Taylor Swift’s ‘Bad Blood’: How we can tell she’s singing about Katy Perry

Taylor Swift performs on stage at CBS Radio’s second annual We Can Survive concert at the Hollywood Bowl. (Todd Williamson/Invision/AP)

If you listen to Taylor Swift’s new track “Bad Blood” without knowing the backstory, you’ll probably think it centers around what Swift frequently writes about: A relationship gone wrong. Yes, but this time, there’s a twist: It’s not about an ex-boyfriend, but a female frenemy.

Throughout Swift’s typically masterful PR campaign for her new album “1989,” released Monday, “Bad Blood” was teased as being the most potentially explosive single. Swift famously calls out her enemies in her lyrics without using names, just clues. And this one made headlines because it was apparently about fellow A-lister Katy Perry.

Swift gave fans some help decoding this one via a Rolling Stone interview: “For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not,” Swift told the magazine, confirming the song was about a fellow female singer. “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?'”

Swift added that the anger behind the tune stemmed from the fact that the artist “basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour.” That’s an easy hint — some of Swift’s back-up dancers abruptly left her “Red” tour for Perry’s “Prism” tour last summer. Throw in the fact that Perry dated Swift’s ex-boyfriend John Mayer, plus Perry’s vague tweet alluding to serious ish with another lady, and the blogosphere happily braced for a throwdown between the two superstars.

And now that “Bad Blood” is released? Sorry, there’s not much more here than what Swift already spilled. In fact, if she hadn’t already spelled out its meaning, we’d probably think the tune was about another ex after all. [**see also: Taylor Swift’s ’1989′: A pivot into pop, a misstep into conformity**]

Check the furious opening lines: “Cause, baby, now we got bad blood/You know it used to be mad love/So take a look what you’ve done, cause baby, now we got bad blood.” Swift and Perry did used to be somewhat friendly, if the cheerful tweets between the two are any evidence — okay, so there’s the “mad love.”

It continues in a similar vein: “Now we got problems/And I don’t think we can solve them/You made a really deep cut,” Swift vents. The lyrics push even further: “I was thinking that you could be trusted” and “Did you have to hit me where I’m weak, baby, I couldn’t breathe/And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me.” Rough, huh? And it seems to align with what Swift said in Rolling Stone about the “horrible” thing Unnamed Diva did to destroy the friendship — whether it was the dancer-poaching or Mayer-dating.

Might Swift forgive and forget this transgression? “Did you think we’d be fine? Still got scars on my back from your knife/So don’t think it’s in the past, these kind of wounds they last and they last.” We’ll mark that down as a “no.”

Later in the song, Swift goes deeper: “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes/You say sorry just for show/If you live like that that you live with ghosts.” This is the point where we need to inform the slower among you that Perry has a song called “Ghost.” Also written by Max Martin, who has a co-writing credit on “Bad Blood.” Small world!

Do what you will with these clues; the piece de reisistance is a visual taunt in the liner notes. Next to the lyrics for “Bad Blood”: A random photo of a Grammy Award. Swift has seven Grammy Awards. Perry? Zero. That’s the part that made Twitter explode.


Taylor Swift's 2015 music video for "Bad Blood" is jam-packed with celebrity cameos and references to classic action movies. (Video: The Washington Post)