how taylor swift won the music video game with 'bad blood'

The Pop maven owned the Billboard Music Awards with the greatest advertising campaign for a music video. Ever.

by Kathy Iandoli
18 May 2015, 12:10pm

Taylor Swift doesn't create music videos, she creates events.

At least that's her new wave, now that her music video for the remix to Bad Blood has officially arrived. On the May 7, Tay began teasing the video by way of Grind House-meets-Sin City style movie advertisements via her Instagram with the tag line "Band-Aids Don't Fix Bullet Holes," a line off her multi-Platinum fifth studio album 1989. The first ad introduced the star (Taylor, obvs) as "Catastrophe." Then, one by one, the secondary characters were revealed through movie posters, either via Taylor's or the co-stars' socials (and most major media outlets). There's her remix collaborator Kendrick Lamar as Welvin Da Great, Cara Delevingne as Mother Chucker, Ellie Goulding as Destructa X, Gigi Hadid as Slay-Z, Lena Dunham as Lucky Fiori, and the list goes on, even boasting the "Headmistress" as Cindy Crawford. It was a star-studded marketing campaign debuting at the 2015 Billboard Awards and having everyone ask, "What the hell will this music video look like?"

Well, from the jump we learned it was directed by Joseph Kahn and produced by Taylor Swift. Kahn, who most recently directed the video for Taylor's Blank Space, and also directed Eminem and Rihanna's Love The Way You Lie, as well as 50 Cent's Ayo Technology with Justin Timberlake. All of those aforementioned videos are known for striking visuals with carefully etched plotlines. Bad Blood would be no different. As the event drew near, Twitter even got in on the action, with the hashtag #BadBloodMusicVideo automatically adding a customized emoji of an ill-fitting Band-Aid over a bullet hole. More brilliant promotion.

Finally, the moment arrived.

The video opens with a non-descript lit skyline in the evening that fades into an office space, where "Catastrophe" is back-flipping and kicking blindfolded men in suits, only to take a moment to fix her lipgloss. She's assisted by "Arsyn," played by Selena Gomez, who then turns on Taylor and kicks her out of a window. As Swift gazes at a pleased Gomez through shards of glass, she lands on a car that collapses into a hospital table in some cryogenic looking futuristic pod, where Swift gets reconstructed into a bionic woman controlled by Kendrick, who spits his first of two previously unreleased verses for our listening pleasure. A newly rebuilt Catastrophe enters her badass chick lair, where we meet all of her soldiers one by one. Zendaya (known as "Cut Throat") throws a dagger at a Teddy Bear, Taylor kicks through a brick wall, followed by riding in a clear car with Kendrick while Hayley "The Crimson Curse" Williams does a backflip in mid-air. What follows is a series of Hunger Games style matches, from sparring in the snow to boxing, motorcycling and tossing sticks of dynamite. Jessica Alba checks in as "Domino," Lena Dunham smokes a cigar. The girls all walk together through a fire. In a sense, it's kind of like those rom-coms that star 75 different people like New Year's Eve or Valentine's Day, each with only about a minute and a half of dialogue. The difference, though, is this video is just under four minutes long and is pretty awesome. The kicker is that the video arrived at the very beginning of the award show, so basically if you waited this long to see the video, you could ditch the ceremony entirely after the first four minutes.

Sure, it's Taylor Swift and she's rich with a huge rolodex, so she can afford the luxury of an A-list set of visuals for her fourth single off 1989, armed with an awesome ad campaign. But this video says so much more than that.

For one, she trades lyrics with the most important person in hip hop right now. Swift has been taken to task for appropriating more than once, where critics chose to zone in on her hot pants and ass shaking plus quasi-b-girl-awkward-uprocking in her Shake It Off video as proof that she's trying desperately to be "down." Not to mention lip-syncing to Kendrick on her Instagram, jumping out of her seat at award shows to dance when rappers hit the stage, along with budding friendships with the likes of Jay Z (she left Spotify for TIDAL, after all) and her former stage-bully, Kanye West. It was a domino effect of "Really, Taylor?" side eyes, questioning how much she really loved the company she was trying to keep. And here she is, with Kendrick Lamar not only lending some bars to her remix, but co-starring in her video with her at a moment where it's all eyes on him. That speaks volumes. Was the price right? Maybe. But K-Dot isn't in the market to collaborate with artists he doesn't respect, so he's basically co-signing the fuck out of Taylor right about now.

Then, of course, there's the Swifties vs. Katy Cats situation. Taylor Swift and Katy Perry have thinly veiled animosity toward one another ever since their friendship ended. The song Bad Blood itself was rumored to be directed toward Perry, so this video—full of Taylor's hot friends—feels like a total extension of that shade. If the rumors are true, then this is a big budget brush off of Katy, in a "look at how many people I can hang out with outside of you" way. For a lot of the video's cameos, they too are drawing lines in the stand. Ellie, who opened for Perry during her California Dreams tour a few years back, is making it known that she's riding for her homie Swifty on this one. Makes sense though, as most of the ladies in Bad Blood have appeared more than once posing for Swift's filtered Instagram images, which is internet talk for "we're best friends."

Finally (and let's ignore the nature of the aforementioned shade toward Katy), this video screams Girl Power. Outside of Kendrick, every other man in this video is getting his ass kicked by a girl. And the ladies—who all showed up to support Taylor—are top notch at their respective crafts. Taylor said in an earlier interview, that her stars—the full list including Ellen Pompeo, Cindy Crawford, Selena Gomez, Jessica Alba, Martha Hunt, Lena Dunham, Cara Delevingne, Hayley Williams, Ellie Goulding, Mariska Hargitay, Gigi Hadid, Karlie Kloss, Lily Aldridge, Hailee Steinfeld, Serayah, and Zendaya—"kill it" at their careers, so it's only right to make them proverbial assassins in her video. It's a Who's Who of Awesome, really.

Leave it to Taylor Swift to one up herself with the release of one music video. It's a statement beyond a collection of moving clips, from friendship to feuding to feminism. Bad Blood was the cross-section of where marketing and music met, and the execution was flawless. And here we thought dropping surprise albums was innovative. Your move, Beyoncé.

Read more about Taylor's Insta-friends here


Text Kathy Iandoli

taylor swift
Billboard Music Awards
Bad Blood