Selena Gomez Combines Exuberance With Anxiety on “Bad Liar”

With cover artwork that shows just how much Selena Gomez has been influenced by Thirteen Reasons Why (she’s an executive producer) of late, we see that the motif of her lying on a bed with tears in her eyes and bandages on her wrist is only the tip of the iceberg of the pain she’s feeling over the memory of a love lost (not still pertaining to Bieber, one hopes). And yet, the real meaning of the song signifies the mending and subsequent soaring of a heart, in spite of the aesthetic of Gomez’s single art, on the surface, indicating a more melancholy route.

In the video for it, suggestions of the subject not totally being in touch with reality (a plot twist she seems to love using based on “Hands to Myself“) stem from the fact that she’s holed up in a mental institution-looking place with a bracelet that says “FALL RISK” (you know, as in falling in love). As she sings–with a not bad use of simile–“Tryna play it coy/Tryna make it disappear/But just like the Battle of Troy, there’s nothing subtle here,” we get the impression that her desire to suppress the feelings she has for a new person derive from being burned badly the last time (perhaps why she’s now in this confined space to begin with).

However, unlike relying on the forthright, tried and true nature of a lover spurned pop song in the vein of Lorde’s recent “Green Light,” Gomez opts to show her Wilde-ian inability to resist anything except temptation. Musically speaking, the track also showcases a fairly marked evolution on Gomez’s part, as she veers away from traditional pop thanks to sampling from Talking Heads’ seminal “Psycho Killer.” Vocally as well, she almost sounds passable as the sort who could be admitted to the Lilith Fair, thanks, in part to some co-writing from Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels.

Reconciling her failure to lie to herself (hence, being a “bad liar”), Gomez repeats like a mantra how much she’s trying not to think about the object of her affection–presumably, The Weeknd. Though the numerous photos and videos of them together since stirring up controversy with Bella Hadid, The Weeknd’s ex and the sister of Gomez’s friend, Gigi, have made their romance pretty apparent. Even so, Gomez isn’t so naive as to forget all the pain that “feelings on fire” can cause. Regardless of his “touch like a happy pill,” Gomez admits “still all we do is fear/What could possibly happen next? Can we focus on the love?” And yes, it is hard to focus on love when everyone around you is examining it and/or hoping for it to crash and burn. On the plus side, at least Gomez had the good sense to pull a “Malibu” and capitalize on the exuberance of her current state of mind over the man she’s allowing in her “king size space” at the moment.