Ever since Thucydides trashed Herodotus and his shoddy histories in ancient Greece, the diss has persevered and thrived. The ancient Romans were no strangers to the this venerable literary tradition either, with Catullus penning a takedown of another poet and a senator so devastating that for years, scholars shied away from translating its decidedly NSFW contents. It probably ended those two guys’ careers.
This week, the long tradition of using verses in the service of dumping all over some chumps is being continued, and dare I say improved upon, by one Taylor Swift, who uses not only nasty verses, but the contents and manufacture of the music video itself, a possible response to a probable diss sent her way during Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime performance.
When Tupac dropped “Hit ’em Up,” he changed the game by getting his whole crew to drop bombs on Biggie and Bad Boy Records, using aggressive disses in tandem with the more subtle insult of Tupac considering his foes to be unworthy of his full attention. Taylor has expanded on this theme in possibly an even more subtle and breathtaking way, stuffing the music video of “Bad Blood” with so many of her high-profile buddies that she looks better connected than the Tidal Illuminati.
“Bad Blood,” a collaboration between Taylor and Kendrick Lamar, features too many fellow luminaries to name, which is the point. Selena Gomez and Lena Dunham show up within the first minute, and things just kinda snowball after that, with actresses and pop stars jumping in for bit parts throughout the four-minute long video. And, while Selena Gomez plays the part of the villain, there’s no doubting who the real villain is—when Taylor speaks of Bad Blood, there’s only one person she’s talking about, and everyone knows it, because Taylor herself admitted as much.
So, somewhere, Katy Perry is watching this video and taking note of all the people Taylor has marshaled to her support in a music video, lined up by her side with knives literally out. Worse still, the video debuted during the Billboard Music Awards, meaning that Taylor Swift got one of the most important industry events of the year to promote her audiovisual barrage. The final, most cutting implication is that Katy Perry would be unable to manage the same, which is probably true, if for no other reason than she wouldn’t be able to find enough people willing to go to war with Taylor Swift.
And so, Taylor Swift and her crew have fashioned the most devastating of disses—one that is impossible for the target to adequately respond to. Granted, “Bad Blood” is on 1989, so beef aficionados have known about the song’s status as a Katy Perry diss since the album dropped. The song by itself is pretty tame as disses go, though—it’s really the video that catapults “Bad Blood” into a well-earned place in diss history. Catullus would be proud.