×

Selena Gomez’s ‘Bad Liar’ Nod to ‘Psycho Killer’ Explained: ‘We’re Obsessed With the Talking Heads,’ Says Justin Tranter

If the pumping bassline to Selena Gomez’s new single, “Bad Liar,” which dropped Wednesday night, sounds familiar, it should. Songwriters Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, who worked with the pop star on her second solo album, 2015’s “Revival,” along with Ian Kirkpatrick, interpolated Tina Weymouth’s classic riff from the Talking Heads’ 1977 “Psycho Killer” as the initial inspiration for the song.

“Selena and Julia are Talking Heads-obsessed,” Tranter tells Variety. “So when we all got together in one room, Julia suggested, ‘Why don’t we just write over the bassline from ‘Psycho Killer?’ and we were all going, ‘That sounds great!’”

Tranter describes the conception as “one of those magical moments where the song just comes together very quickly and felt so good,” adding, “The lyrics are really cool and descriptive about when you first start having feelings for someone, but don’t want to admit it, which turns you into a ‘Bad Liar.’”

Indeed, verses like “What could possibly happen next / Can we focus on the love / Paint my kiss across your chest / Be the art, I’ll be the brush,” are certain to have fans trying to decipher if they’re referencing either of her two high-profile dalliances with fellow artists Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) and Justin Bieber.

For Tranter, though, it’s all about that bass.

“The beat was just very minimal and left plenty of room for the top line to grow,” he says. “It was like a starting place, then it just felt so good, it became the thing.”

Thanks to Warner/Chappell Publishing executive Greg Sowders, the song has the blessings of David Byrne and the rest of the band (all three songwriters and the Talking Heads are signed to Warner/Chappell).

“He heard it, loved it and approved it,” says Tranter. “Which was a pretty crazy moment for us.  To have David Byrne listed next to our names is just so cool.”

As for the direction of the new album, Tranter says, “Selena is where she always is, ahead of the f—ing curve… The music is very sexy, very smart and right where we left off the last time.”

More Music

  • Weezer

    Weezer Surprise-Releases Covers Album

    On the heels of Weezer’s mega-successful version of Toto’s “Africa,” the band has surprise-released a full album of covers. “The Teal Album” features renditions of such 80s hits as A-Ha’s “Take On Me,” Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” The Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” and Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” in addition to classics [...]

  • Def Jam Chief Says 'Rap Camp'

    Def Jam Chief Says 'Rap Camp' Concept 'Encapsulates Our New Direction'

    “Seventeen artists, six days, one incredible album full of new music.” That was the description used by Def Jam Records to introduce the label’s “Rap Camp” concept, which yielded the compilation album “Undisputed” designed to introduce the roster’s slate of hip-hop newcomers. Def Jam is, of course, home to some of the biggest names in rap [...]

  • Mac Miller Mural

    Mac Miller Honored With Memorial Mural: The Story Behind the Art

    Venice, California-based painter Gustavo Zermeno Jr. paid tribute to what would have been Mac Miller’s 27th birthday on January 19 with an 11-feet x 50-feet mural spread across Express Label, a custom printing and graphic design firm on Beverly Blvd., just east of N. Virgil Avenue in the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. Miller died [...]

  • Cardi B iHeartRadio Jingle Ball, Show,

    Cardi B's First Las Vegas Residency Confirmed for New KAOS Nightclub

    Variety has confirmed that Cardi B will be making money moves with her first Las Vegas residency this spring. Coming to KAOS, a new day and nightclub opening at the Palms Casino Resort the first weekend in April, Cardi joins a hip-hop and EDM-heavy lineup that will have G-Eazy, Above and Beyond, Kaskade and Skrillex taking [...]

  • Rapper, Songwriter BlocBoy JB Sues 'Fortnite'

    Rapper, Songwriter BlocBoy JB Sues 'Fortnite' Creator Over 'Shoot' Dance

    BlocBoy JB is joining the ranks of performers suing Epic Games for a dance move. In this case, James “BlocBoy JB” Baker filed suit against the “Fortnite” creator for the game’s use of his “shoot” dance, a dance move he created in his music video for “Shoot.” The dance move is called “hype” in the [...]

  • Ric Ocasek House

    Now Separated, Ric Ocasek and Paulina Porizkova Seek Sale of Manhattan Townhouse

    Almost a year after top-earning 1980s supermodel Paulina Porizkova announced, via social media, that she and veteran New Wave rock star Ric Ocasek of the Cars had “peacefully” split up a year earlier, following almost three decades of marriage, the erstwhile couple’s Manhattan home, a handsome townhouse on a pretty, tree-lined block in the Gramercy [...]

  • Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Companion Album to

    Alfonso Cuarón's New 'Roma' Album to Feature Beck, Patti Smith, El-P, T Bone Burnett

    Not to be outdone by Ariana Grande’s impending record news, filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón has announced the track list and release date for his new album, which, coincidentally, is also due Feb. 8. He’s the curator of “Music Inspired by the Film Roma,” which was already teased by a Billie Eilish track, and is now revealed [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content