Nothing beats a nice build up. Rising action, tension, foreplay, all make the eventual goal taste that much sweeter when finally reached. As winter fades from memory and spring goes into full swing, the onset of summer sticks to the air like lake effect humidity, sending one shivering with an - ti - ci - ... pation. Such delayed gratification bubbles under the surface of Selena Gomez’s song of the summer contender, “Bad Liar”.
The title acts as a double entendre at its finest; on the surface, Gomez poorly hides her excitement, but beneath that statement lies an implication of mischief, a trait she’s cultivated with partners like Cashmere Cat and on her second studio record, Revival. She wields this anticipation effortlessly, dangling it in your face with amused innocence. Even still, she sounds equally infatuated with this desire, something a la “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”. But “Bad Liar” gets its name not only from her poor poker face, but the friskiness it seeks to inspire.
And the way it teases feels extra cheeky. Using juxtaposed reference to subtleties and Troy, Gomez uses her lyricism to belie the exhilaration she feels towards her companion. Her efforts to disguise her desire hold less resolve, and instead act more as playful daydreams which explore the possibilities of their courtship. “In my room there’s a king-sized bed/Bigger than it used to be” may not contain any dirty words but the sentiment is there, and her lyrics, the most complex aspects of the song, shrewdly if strangely get their points across. While I’ve never personally heard someone described as “serpentine,” the metaphor is never lost on me or anybody else.
Minimalism works wonders on “Bad Liar”: that snippy, sparse Talking Heads sample couples perfectly with a few extra bells and Gomez’s voice, which shows signs of growth and maturity. She cuts her vocal runs softly but smoothly, like a hot knife through butter, even earning praise from the man himself for her performance. Its relative simplicity makes for the ideal bedroom anthem, sensual and catchy without trying all that hard. With just these simple tools, “Bad Liar” aurally strokes the mind, building up the anticipation introduced literally from Gomez’s first, breathy exhalation that is the first verse.
The driving chorus might only be eight easy words repeated over and over, but you hear it swelling into something more intense with each attempt Gomez makes. Light on her feet, she slyly hides her motives until finishing the second chorus, when she reaches the bridge and another finish line so to speak. At that moment, “Bad Liar” lives up to its name, giving Gomez away only to quickly snap back into her composed self. Her feathery voice becomes full-throated and passionate, tearing aside her liar’s facade to expose a pleasure-seeker herself. This bombshell effectively climaxes the plot, so to speak, of “Bad Liar” and the track befittingly settles into the pleasantry of falling action in the final chorus. Pleased by a job well done, Gomez eases back into her lies, all the more assured after reaching her goal of satisfying herself and surprising you.
Don’t expect “Bad Liar” to slink away anytime soon. This is just one of those tracks guaranteed to haunt you for the rest of the summer, either on the radio or your head. And those who resist its charms run the risk of lying to themselves as well, but as this song proves, maybe that’s just part of the appeal.