Event music videos have kind of become a relic of the era that ended when MTV’s TRL signed off for the last time. Sure, every now and then a Nicki Minaj video stirs the pot online, and who even knows what happened with “Gangnam Style”, but in general, there seems to be less anticipation and excitement around major artists’ music videos now than any time in the last 25 years. Not if Taylor Swift has anything to say about it, though.
Swift has spent the last couple weeks banging the drum about her “Bad Blood” video, in a way that captured the Internet’s imagination. (To be fair, pretty much anything Taylor Swift does has the same effect.) She announced that she’d worked on it with Grammy-winning director Joseph Kahn, the man responsible for Britney Spears’s “Toxic,” U2’s “Elevation,” and more recently, Swift’s own “Blank Space.” She announced the video would premiere during the Billboard Music Awards, which aired on May 17, and during which Swift handily took Top Artist honors. Most intriguingly, though, she slowly rolled out a series of character posters, which teased appearances from a bunch of impressive women, including Mariska Hargitay, Lena Dunham, and Hayley Williams. Oh, and she announced Kendrick Lamar is involved. Okay! We’re in! But is the video any good?
On one hand, Swift may have bitten off more cool people than she could chew. The cast is so sprawling that it takes the entire length of the video to introduce them all. However, this introduction is so cartoonishly overblown and bombastic that you can’t help getting swept up in it. We open with an office fight that recalls Furious 7. The high-kicks and shiny leather couldn’t be more stylized. Everything is cinematic and huge in this video. Even the song itself has been remixed and amplified–when it kicks in, the beat is beefed up with pop-rap steroids and a serious Kendrick Lamar injection.
The rest of the video is spent showing off all these badass, high-class female street warriors, in the coolest ways Kahn and Swift can come up with. They’re all given comic book gangster names like “Arsyn” and “Destructa X”–Kendrick goes by “Welvin da Great,” because why not–and they each have a brief chance to show off their weaponry and deadly skill set. Also: explosions!
It’s a return to a time when videos were a bigger deal because when one of them became a pop culture obsession, that artist would sell a ton of albums. If albums are sold at all any more, it happens through a number of other intangible factors which videos merely assist. Perhaps Swift’s hostile takeover of our attention with “Bad Blood” this past week, though, will inspire other artists and breathe new life into the event video. Then maybe Carson Daly can host TRL on MTV again, and all will be right with the world.