Lyrics are a huge part of what we do here at Custom Serenade. Whether they are written by clients or for clients, the words that accompany music are extremely important to us. So, naturally there is a keen interest in what other people do with words in music. I personally find it helpful to examine the lyrics of established songs and songwriters as both a means of improving as a lyricist, and also just for fun. So, I thought that I would share some of my thoughts about lyrics via this blog. This time around,Taylor Swift, that spotify hating daughter of a millionaire, will be our subject and we’ll be looking at the lyrics from the song “Bad Blood”(album version) from her latest collection 1989. But, before weget started on our analysis of the Bad Blood Lyrics, I’d just like to say that if you write lyrics we’d love to see them. Or if not, we’d love to write them for you! ! Now without further adieu let’s delve into those Bad Blood lyrics!
The majority of Bad Blood’s lyrics consist of this chorus which starts the song and repeats five times throughout the song’s tenure:
‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood You know it used to be mad love So take a look what you’ve done ‘Cause, baby, now we got bad blood Hey
The first half of this chorus gives us a series of rhymes that rely on the vowel sound “uh”, but feature different consonant ending sounds, the result being a pattern of imperfect rhymes (except for the repeated word “blood”). Perfect rhymes are more the norm, and most listeners expect the ending sounds to be the same, therefore it could be said that the “close enough for rock and roll” imperfect rhyme scheme is somewhat juvenile and plays into Taylor Swift’s image of being a perpetual teenager. Personally I find it kind of interesting. I like the way it forms a pattern, I like hearing the vowel sound then hearing a different ending sound three times in a row. I actually wish the pattern had continued by ending with a different line/word that had yet another consonant sound at the end, “enough” for example. Regardless of what you think of the rhyme scheme, it’s clear that whoever is speaking in this song is pretty upset.
Now we got problems And I don’t think we can solve them You made a really deep cut And, baby, now we got bad blood Hey
“Now we got problems, and I don’t think we can solve ’em.” is the meat of this song in my opinion. It’s the first time that I can think of in which “problems” and “solve ’em” have been paired in a rhyme scheme. It’s kind of cool, original, and, honestly the best thing about this song.
The lines that follow it give us another imperfect rhyming pair which further the violently tragic message of the song through cliche phrases.
Next, we have the first verse:
Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted Did you have to hit me, where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me
Some nice bubble gum drama happening here. Some fun rhymes (trusted and rusted) but in the context of the song, the rhythm is really more important than the meaning, which is easily dealt with by repeating the same words on the first three lines (did you have to…) then coming up with a simple two syllable word to top it off, and then changing the words on the fourth line. I have to say that I find the second line (Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted) kind of intriguing.
Next we have the pre-chorus warm up:
Oh, it’s so sad to think about the good times, you and I
Here is the point at which I’m going to be openly critical. Finish your thought Taylor. It’s sad to think about the good times you and I WHAT? The good times you and I had, remember, fought for, could have had? Just choose some banal expression and don’t leave us hanging!
After the chorus repeats, we have verse number 2:
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 kinda wounds they last and they last. Now did you think it all through? All these things will catch up to you And time can heal but this won’t, so if you’re coming my way, just don’t
More imperfect rhymes, more cliches, more teen drama. Then more thinking about the good times you and I….and then the chorus again, and finally we get to the last verse/bridge:
Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes You say sorry just for show If you live like that, you live with ghosts (ghosts)
Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes (hey) You say sorry just for show (hey) If you live like that, you live with ghosts (hey)
If you love like that blood runs cold
I like the “band aids don’t fix bullet holes” line, and I get how saying sorry just for show can be equated to living with ghosts. It’s a fairly unique way to convey what the song is saying, which makes me kind of wish that it didn’t collapse into the “blood runs cold” line, which is unoriginal and doesn’t do much to further the narrative.
Then, to end the song where we get a double dose of the chorus. Hey
In looking at numerous contemporary pop songs it seems that much of the art in writing a hit is to figure out when the meaning of the lyric is important versus when the words are merely a vehicle to keep a rhythmic scheme going, or a vessel in which to present a melody. It’s a formidable task which usually takes an entire team to accomplish (odds for success increase when one or more members are Swedish). In this case the team consisted of Swift and also writers Max Martin and Johan Karl “Shellback” Schuster. Congratulations to them all on their latest hit and their practiced use of pop psychology to make millions.
Interestingly, finding the album version of this song is now fairly difficult due to the media presence of the new version featuring Kendrick Lamar. However, it’s very easy to find cover versions.