Listen to the track below
Selena Gomez is a figure who has pitched herself right at the center of the celebrity Venn diagram: This is a woman who, in addition to her successful career as a singer, endorses everything from Coach to Coca-Cola, has acted in wholesome Disney television shows and edgy Harmony Korine movies, modeled in Louis Vuitton campaign ads and also designed clothes for Kmart. Never exactly trendy and never exactly timeless, she rides the middle. With her music, she has certainly had a few bangers: “Come & Get It” will get you through a spin class, and “Love You Like a Love Song” is now a cult karaoke classic. But if her songs have always been pretty good, they’ve never been really and truly great. The hit she has on the radio right now is a fairly anonymous EDM-lite number with Kygo called “It Ain’t Me,” a title that only begs the question: Well if this ain’t you, Selena, what and who is?
Hopefully, it’s the artist we hear on “Bad Liar,” a brand new song Gomez wrote alongside Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter. Looking at the single’s cover, shot by Petra Collins, you might develop some fairly tragic expectations concerning what you’re about to hear. In what seems like a reference to a tabloid firestorm over her recent stint in rehab, Gomez is wearing hospital bandages and gazing vulnerably at the camera. But “Bad Liar” isn’t that deep. The all-rhythm track is a simple proposition, sampling the jagged, iconic Tina Weymouth bass line from Talking Heads’ beloved “Psycho Killer” for a light, spritzy song about romantic anticipation. And it works. Really well. Even snagging an endorsement from David Byrne.
Her contemporaries Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus, who have in the past burned brighter than Gomez, are lately scattered and floundering in search of new identities, leaving behind the cartoon characters and twerk provocateurs they once were, unsure of who to be instead. Cyrus is going for a middling Shania-lite sound with her new single “Malibu,” while Perry has, unfortunately, been trying out woke disco and Migos-assisted trap. Now, Gomez’s consistent affability is beginning to feel like a solid strength. Maybe she’s had it right all the time, the proverbial tortoise to the fame hares of the world, slowly and methodically edging through the race, one foot in front of the other, until she snags a win. Which is precisely what “Bad Liar” is: A victory for an uncomplicated pop star who makes uncomplicated pop music, and a fizzy fun track that will sound as good all summer as the Gomez-endorsed Coke you pour into your rum.