Bad Liar


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Adam R. Holz

Album Review

Selena Gomez has a boy on the brain, one she’s recently broken up with.

She’s halfheartedly trying to convince someone (Herself? Him?) otherwise, that she’s really not thinking about him very much. But it’s hard to put on a casual face when the feelings under the surface are anything but. Which is why Selena dubs herself a “bad liar” in this song: she’s not very good at pretending she doesn’t still care.

Not very good at all.

Nature Abhors a Vacuum

“I was walking down the street the other day/Tryna distract myself,” Gomez begins. That’s easier said than done, apparently. “But then I see your face,” she sings. “Oh wait, that’s someone else.”

She’d like to shake off the memory: “Tryna play it coy/Tyrna make it disappear/ … I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’/Not to think about you.” But … she’s failing, comparing her tempestuous emotions to an epic conflagration: “But just like the Battle of Troy/There’s nothing subtle here.”

Her former flame’s absence prompts Selena to offer him a chance to retake his former place: in her bed. “In my room there’s a king-size space/Bigger than it used to be.” Then she adds even more suggestively, “If you want, you can rent the place/Call me an amenity.” That latter line is among the raciest in the song, and definitely a self-objectifying one.

And the Guy?

Selena’s ex sounds like he might be having second thoughts, too. “I see how your attention builds/It’s like looking in a mirror,” Gomez sings to him. “What could possibly happen next?” she wonders. “Could we focus on love?”

After that question, Selena’s lyrics take a second sensual turn. “Paint my kiss across your chest,” she sings. “Be the art, I’ll be the brush.” By song’s end, she’s dispensed with pretense (“With my feelings on fire/Guess I’m a bad liar”) and is begging her once-and-perhaps-future beau to give romance with her another shot: “And oh, baby, let’s make reality, actuality, a reality.”

As pop songs from pop divas go, “Bad Liar” is hardly squeaky clean. But it doesn’t go nearly as far lyrically as the risqué video does visually.

Bondage, Lingerie and … Suicide?

The video, initially available only on the Spotify app and looking as if it was filmed on a smart phone, finds Gomez wriggling and writhing around erotically in revealing lingerie. Her hands are tied with lace, suggesting some kind of bondage is in the mix here.

Meanwhile, keen cultural observers have noted that Gomez is wearing what looks to be a hospital ID tag and a bandage taped to her wrist—cues suggesting a possible message related to suicide. That important topic has been the focus of the controversial Netflix series 13 Reasons Why, which Gomez co-produced.

But if these fairly subtle symbols are supposed to deliver a positive or redemptive message about surviving a suicide attempt, it’s pretty unclear what it is. Mostly, the video for this middling problematic song seems like yet another steamy opportunity for Gomez to distance herself from her Disney past by embracing an image that’s closer to Fifty Shades of Grey.

Adam R. Holz

After serving as an associate editor at NavPress’ Discipleship Journal and consulting editor for Current Thoughts and Trends, Adam now oversees the editing and publishing of Plugged In’s reviews as the site’s director. He and his wife, Jennifer, have three children. In their free time, the Holzes enjoy playing games, a variety of musical instruments, swimming and … watching movies.

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