GIRL IN THE SONG – PART 14

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Bad Blood (T Swift/ K Lamar/M Martin/Shellback) – Taylor Swift 2014 and Swish Swish (K Perry/D Dumont/ S Hudson/P J Sledge/O Maraj/B Hazzard) – Katy Perry 2017

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In 2008 Katy Perry and Taylor Swift (above) were “besties” who tweeted regularly and guested at each other’s live performances; and along with Miley Cyrus they were the emerging young pop stars of their era. Swift dated John Mayer for a year, she was 19 and he was 32, but the relationship turned sour in 2010, and following their breakup Swift skewered Mayer in her song Dear John, “Well maybe it’s me and my blind optimism to blame/ Maybe its you and your sick need to give love then to take it away/ And you’ll add my name to your long list of traitors who don’t understand/And I’ll look back and regret how I ignored when they said “run as fast as you can.” Mayer felt bruised and humiliated by the lyrics but quickly found comfort and solace in the arms of Katy Perry, who he dated on and off between 2012-2015, and it was this relationship that began to undermine the Katy/Tay Tay friendship. Below John Mayer with L-R Taylor Swift, Katy Perry.

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Taylor Swift is well known for cultivating a “squad” of girlfriends and cheerleaders, Selena Gomez, Martha Hunt, Abigail Anderson Lucier, Ruby Rose, and Gigi Hadid were some of the original squad members, but others seemed to come and go from the group depending on the status of their relationship with Swift, and whether any accidental sleights via Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Tik Tok, have peeved the diva. The Squad below L-R – Gigi Hadad, Martha Hunt, Hailee Steinfield, Cara Delevigne, Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Serayah, Mariska Hargitay, Lily Aldridge, and Karlie Kloss.

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In 2013 Swift commenced her Red Tour after recruiting three former dancers from Katy Perry’s team, so far so good, but before the Red Tour was completed these three dancers defected to Katy Perry’s Prismatic World Tour, and one of the dancers, Lockhart Brownlie explained that they preferred working with Katy who they felt was more open, friendly, and approachable than Swift, clearly the battle lines had been drawn between the two pop divas.

In 2014 Swift released the song Bad Blood on her 1989 album, wherein she took aim at Perry for trying to sabotage her arena tour, and encouraging the defection of the dancers, “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…” It was a synthpop song that featured a rap insert by Lamar when released as a single, critics were divided about the song, and particularly the lyrics, which were variously described as generic schoolyard name-calling, trite victim-playing by Swift, and a vanity project typical of the cult of personality that Swift was fond of promoting. The promo video was however highly praised, it included a virtual roll call of Swift’s Squad of singers, actors and models – Taylor Swift (Catastrophe), Gigi Hadad (Slay- Z), Selena Gomez ( Arsyn, in a Katy Perry wig), Zendaya (Dilemma), Cara Delevigne (Mother Chucker), Jessica Alba (Domino), Ellie Goulding (Destructa X), Martha Hunt (Homeslice), Zendaya (Cut Throat), and Cindy Crawford (Headmistress), to name but a few. All played roles in a plot that was equally an homage to such films as Sin City, Robocop, and Kill Bill, as much as a vicious put down of Katy Perry.

An All-Star Cinematic Music Video/Movie Trailer/Celebrity Put-Down. – Take Your Pick.

Bad Blood was a hit, sold over 4.5 m copies and the video won both Grammy and MTV awards, but Katy Perry would respond in 2017 with the release of Swish Swish, a merger of hip hop and EDM genres, from her album Witness, which featured rapper Nicky Minaj, “Your game is tired/ You should retire/ Your ‘bout as cute as/ An old coupon expired/ And karma’s not a liar/ She keeps the receipts…”. The promo video used basketball metaphors to fight bullies and haters, and although good-natured and slapstick in nature, it was definitely aimed at Swift. It was also a global hit with sales over 2.5 m, despite Swift petulantly countering by releasing her entire online discography on Spotify on the same day Perry released her new album Witness.

A Pop Divas Space Jam.

By 2019 the two had reconciled and although no longer “besties”, hostilities had been suspended, and their new working relationship was sealed when Katy made a cameo appearance as a burger to Taylor’s French fries, in her new music video “You Need to Calm Down.” 

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Innocent (T Swift) – Taylor Swift 2010 and Famous (K West and 17 others) – Kanye West 2016

In September 2009 the MTV Video Awards were progressing according to plan, Taylor Swift had just been awarded the best video for her song You Belong With Me, and was in the middle of making her acceptance speech, when a slightly dishevelled Kanye West appeared from stage left and interrupted Taylor, stating “but Beyonce had the best video of all time…” then waited for applause for his bold actions, but got none, and disappeared.

Beyonce, Pink and others criticised Kanye West for his actions, but the rapper remained defiant.

West was obviously a big fan of Beyonce’s Single Ladies video, and although some agreed that it was superior to Swift’s, there was a torrid backlash directed at West, for stage-crashing Swift, who still had songs to perform later that night, President Obama called him a “jackass”. On September 14 Kanye West appeared on the Jay Leno show and appeared to express regret for his actions, but a week later Swift said that she had still not received an apology from West, Taylor hosted SNL on November 7 and sent herself up in a comic monologue which included a humorous reference to Kanye’s stage-crashing of her speech.

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September 2010 Taylor released her new album Speak Now which included the track Innocent, a country-tinged confessional song wherein Taylor claimed that West’s actions where sincere and despite the public outrage and criticism he had attracted, she just put it down to his immaturity “32 and still growing up now” and misguided zeal “I guess you really did it this time/Left yourself in your warpath/Lost your balance on a tightrope/Lost your mind tryin’ to get it back…”. But others interpreted the song as being patronizing, condescending, and hypocritical, and not genuinely offering the rapper redemption or forgiveness, and it seems that West was also of this mind, Innocent was a minor hit for Swift.

West later appeared on the Ellen Degeneres Show and claimed to be a “soldier of culture” apparently in reference to his commitment to recognition of culturally significant achievements “I cannot lie about it to sell records…I am about beauty, truth and awesomeness”, and it seems that no one was going to either dispute this position or actually get him to explain what it really meant. So just when it appears the Tay Tay/K West spat had run its course, at a 2015 Grammy Awards ceremony, Swift comments that she was surprised that Kanye didn’t stage-crash Beck’s acceptance speech for Album of the Year ahead of Beyonce, West’s response was typically enigmatic “This is the irony of my life”.

But in the very next year Kanye would hit back at Swift when his album The Life of Pablo was released and included the single Famous, which included several tasteless and misogynistic lyrics about Taylor Swift, addressed to Kanye’s “Southside niggas”“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/Why? I made that bitch famous/ I made that bitch famous/ For all the girls that got dick from Kanye West/ If you see ‘em in the streets give ‘em Kanye’s best…” 

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The battle lines were now drawn for an all-out spat between Taylor and her girl squad, and Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian, Swift denied giving approval for the lyric before its release, and repeated her accusations that the song was misogynistic and embarrassing. Below -The infamous “Nudes In The Bed” scene from West’s Famous video.

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West claimed that Swift did give approval in a telephone conversation, and was further backed up by Kardashian who was playing the loyal wife to the hilt, and excusing her husband’s choice of lyrics as being perfectly acceptable for a rapper. Swift ultimately produced an unedited copy of the full telephone conversation which fully vindicated that she was never privy to the proposed lyrics and certainly never approved them. Musically Famous ticked all the boxes, a hip hop arrangement which merged Kanye’s vocals with Rihanna, ad-libs by hip hop artist Swizz Beat, and samples from Nina Simone and others. The music video was also controversial as it included nude models of celebrities in a giant bed, and according to West some were real people and not prosthetics. The celebrity sleepover included Taylor Swift, along with Donald Trump, Anna Wintour, Bill Cosby, George W Bush, Kanye and Kim, and five others, and was equally praised and reviled by critics, the record sold over 3.2m copies, and a temporary truce in the hostilities between the two has since prevailed.

The Famous Video Is Not Available to Download – Go Directly to YouTube.

Not so for Kim and Kanye who separated in late 2020, and were divorced the following year, he took off with model Irina Shayk and she stayed to look after the kids North, Saint, Chicago and Psalm, with no chance to add South, Hymn, Guru, or Brooklyn to the brood, with the Louis Vuitton Don. Below- Swift and Kardashian have apparently reconciled their differences.

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Cry Me A River (J Timberlake/T Mosley/S Storch) – Justin Timberlake 2002

In 1955 Walt Disney’s Micky Mouse Club was a global hit, teenage stars like Annette Funicello, Cheryl Holdridge, Doreen Tracey, Darlene Gillespie, Cubby O’Brien and Johnny Crawford, became household names, and several would segue to careers in music. Funicello had hits with Tall Paul and Pineapple Princess, and starred in several “Beach Party” movies with Frankie Avalon. Johnny Crawford secured a long-term role as co-star in the TV western Rifleman, and had pop hits with Cindy’s Birthday, Petite Chanson, and Rumours. L-R Annette Funicello, Original Mouseketeers, and Johnny Crawford

The original Mouseketeers departed the Mousehouse in 1959, but Disney would reprise the show several times over the next forty years, until in 1989 The All-New Mickey Mouse Club (ANMMC) was launched, and the juvenile talent assembled was impressive, many would aspire to successful musical/acting careers in the future – Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake(NSYNC), Christine Aguilera, Ryan Gosling, JC Chasez (NSYNC), Rhona Bennett (En Vogue) and others, and the Mouseketeers also looked different, the Mouse Ears had disappeared and the letter sweaters had  been replaced by jackets and more stylish outfits. Below – Before and After Shots L-R – Ryan Gosling, Christine Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake and second shot with Britney in foreground and Justin behind her on the set of ANMMC.

When Justin Timberlake first met Britney Spears on the set of ANMMC in 1992 he told GQ magazine in 2006 that “I was in love with her from the start…I was infatuated from the moment I saw her.” They were twelve years old and would remain close after ANMMC folded in 1994, ultimately revealing the depth of their affection for each other in 1999. In 2001 the couple would walk several red carpets together and perform at the Super Bowl XXXV at halftime, they seemed deeply committed and Britney has revealed that Timberlake relieved her of her virginity around this time, as she was sure they would be married. Britney and Justin at the Superbowl.

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But less than a year later in 2002 they would split up, amidst rumours that Britney had been unfaithful to him with her choreographer Wade Robson, which she denied. But Timberlake was unconvinced, and before the end of the year his album Justified featured Cry Me A River, a song in which he poured out his hurt and resentment, and sent a stinging rebuke to Spears “You told me you loved me/Why did you leave me all alone/Now you tell me you need me/When you call me on the phone/Girl., I refuse/You must have me confused with some other guy/The bridges were burned/Now its your turn to cry.”

Gender-Swap version of Play Misty For Me/ MIsery/Fatal Attraction, etc.

Musically the song was impressive, merging R&B with graceful and even mysterious Arabian-inspired riffs and Gregorian chants, with melodies accompanied by electric piano, beatbox, guitars, synthesisers, clavinet, and a vocal sample by producer Timbaland. But the music video was equal parts creepy, voyeuristic, and stalker-like, as well as beguiling, edgy, noir chic.  Timberlake used a video camera to tape himself with a girl as they cavort on a bed, his “girlfriend,” a Britney look-a-like, actress Lauren Hastings, returns to this house and Justin hides, spying on “Britney” undressing, having a shower, then watches her seeing the video of Justin having sex with the other girl. It was a big hit, sold over 3.5m copies, and a year later Britney released the song Everytime, an apparent expression of regret by the singer about what had happened and an attempt at reconciliation “And everytime I try to fly, I fall/Without my wings, I feel so small/ I guess I need you baby/ I see your face you’re haunting me/ I guess I need you baby.”. But Timberlake wasn’t buying it, and their relationship remained frosty for many years, until in 2020, when the #MeToo movement was calling out sexual harassers, and while Brit was battling her father over conservator arrangements in her life, that Timberlake publicly apologized to her, and admitted that he had been boorish, insensitive, and misogynistic in his relationship with her.

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Sorry (J Bieber/J Michaels/J Tranter/S Moore/M Tucker) and Mark My Words (J Bieber/J Boyd/J Abrahart/R Jenkins/F Hallard/M Tucker) and What Do You Mean (J Bieber/J Boyd/M Levy) – Justin Bieber 2015

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Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez (above) started dating in 2010, she was 18 and he was 16, both were starting careers in show business, she had secured juvenile roles on such Disney Channel series as Hannah Montana, and Wizards of Waverley Place, and he was an emerging pop idol, who had scored a huge hit with his debut album My Word, and the breakout single Baby. Both came from broken homes, their parents had divorced when the two were quite young, Bieber was raised in a middle-class Ontario family, and Gomez by her single mother in a poor Mexican/American home in Texas.

From 2008-09 Bieber dated Caitlin Beadles and Gomez dated Nick Jonas after appearing in one of his music videos, but the two stars confirmed their closer arrangements in 2011 when they vacationed together on the Caribbean island of St. Lucien. They made several joint red-carpet appearances, and their celebrity was confirmed once the tabloids conferred the portmanteau name “Jelena” on the couple. Bieber would have a string of hit albums and singles and emerge as the new Prince of Pop, Gomez would simultaneously commence recording but her early releases were minor hits, and there was criticism of her vocal skills, by 2012 there were rumors of a pregnancy and infidelity, and the couple split that year.

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Gomez released her debut solo single Come and Get It, seemingly directed at Bieber- “I’m not too shy to show I love you, I got no regrets/I love you much too, much to hide you, this love ain’t finished yet/This love ain’t finished yet/So baby, whenever you’re ready… “several months after they parted, and seemed to be seeking reconciliation with the Beeb. By 2014 Bieber was painfully and awkwardly emerging from his pop idol persona with the help of rappers, who encouraged him to mimic their speech and dress, and embrace drugs and body art, he was arrested for DUI, vandalism, public urination, and strangely, for keeping a prohibited import, a black-market monkey.

His public utterances became more incomprehensible and he faced a public backlash, but in reality he was just an immature white boy with try-hard tatts, trying to look like a gangsta rapper. 2014 was also not a good year for Gomez who was battling Lupus, but Bieber continued to tarnish his public image after he got into a scuffle with Orlando Bloom in Ibiza (Spain), apparently over Miranda Kerr and  Selena Gomez, who had been flirting with the two.

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In 2015 Bieber released the album Purpose, he had publicly apologized for his more aberrant recent behaviour but was stilling pining for Selena Gomez, he has admitted that three songs on this album were inspired by her, the first, and most successful was Sorry, “Yeah, is it too late now to say sorry/Cause I’m missing more than just your body/Is it too late now to say sorry/Yeah I know that I let you down/Is it too late to say I’m sorry now.” Lyrically it was underwhelming, but musically the song charted new ground for Bieber with its blending of EDM and reggae rhythms in a tropical house composition influenced by the contribution of US DJ Skrillex. The fusion of brass, marimbas and steel drums, and Bieber’s mellow falsetto was also very effective as well. It was a monster hit with global sales in excess of 15m copies, but critics were divided about how apologetic and vulnerable, Bieber really was upon closer examination of the lyrics, which many deemed to be too specific about his physical relationship with Gomez.

Live Performance by the Beebs.

What Do You Mean was another plea by Bieber to understand how he could re-connect with Gomez- “What do you mean/When you nod your head yes, but you wanna say no/What do you mean/When you don’t want me to move, but you tell me to go.” The song was another monster hit and Bieber was now getting more respect as a mature and nuanced adult singer, his breathy vocals were smooth and soulful, and the clever fusion of keyboards, flute, tropical synths, bass and a ticking clock racked up global sales in excess of 10 million copies.

Soft Rock/Pop

Mark My Words continued the theme of heartbreak and unrequited love by Bieber “Mark my words, that’s all that I have/Mark my words, give you all I got/In every way I will/You’re the only reason why/ Oh I don’t wanna live a lie.”  For the next three years the two had an on-again, off-again relationship which came to an abrupt end when Bieber married model Hailey Baldwin on September 30, 2019. Below L-R – Justin 15, Hailey 12; Hailey 17, Justin 20 with her father actor Stephen Baldwin, the grown-up married couple in 2019.

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