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

Variety logo Variety 5/18/2017 Roy Trakin
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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.”

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