She is already one of the most successful and established solo stars in pop music, and she has never positioned herself as an artsy “singer-songwriter.” Of the notable names (Camila Cabello, Liam Payne, etc) who released radio singles this week, Selena Gomez arguably had the least to prove with her new song.
She went ahead and tried to make a statement anyway. Indeed, the artist who could have gotten away with complacency opted for ambition on new single “Bad Liar.”
Gomez’ vocal performance is superficially reminiscent of her work on “Hands To Myself,” but the overall song is much different — and much riskier. Featuring the bass line from Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer” and semi-spoken, essentially amelodic verses, “Bad Liar” is unlike anything else in Gomez’ discography.
It nonetheless remains a pop song at heart. The production is polished and inviting, and the chorus is very conventional and accessible. It’s different from what is currently on the radio, but it is not some sort of aggressive rebellion against the pop status quo. It is merely Gomez attempting to cement a unique sonic identity.
Risk and ambition are not, however, automatic synonyms for excellence. No matter how admirable Gomez’ approach, it will ultimately be judged based on the product of the execution.
“Bad Liar” is acceptable, but not stellar, in that context.
Gomez’ delivery on the verses can be more jarring than it is effective. Helpful as they may be in establishing Gomez’ artistic identity, the verses are not especially effective in luring listeners.
The chorus is strong and decently infectious, but it is a bit too low-key and linear to be magnetic. It is the kind of chorus people will like, but it is not the kind of huge, unforgettable chorus that can take an artist to the next tier of superstardom.
The “Psycho Killer” interpolation is fun and unexpected, but it also may have a negative consequence. Talking Heads vocalist David Byrne has such an iconic voice, and it is hard to imagine anyone — particularly Talking Heads fans — feeling as if Gomez’ performance stacks up.
In an age where the term “risk” gets thrown around haphazardly, “Bad Liar” proves itself deserving of the label. In an age where so many pop artists err on the side of the generic, Gomez deserves credit for trying something fresh.
But we’ll always be in an age where the fondest praise should be reserved for songs that are truly great. “Bad Liar” is not quite at that level.