It seems like Katy Perry decided to engage Taylor Swift with a response after all! The pop star delivered scorching lyrics on her new Witness single “Swish Swish,” indicating — as the song’s lyrics suggest — “karma’s not a liar, she keeps receipts!” Although Perry has yet to confirm almost unanimous suspicions that the record targets her “Bad Blood” rival, it still carries mass amounts of shady one-liners directed at someone.
Both “Bad Blood” and “Swish Swish” are rarities as pop-oriented diss tracks. Although pop disses are not typically as vulgar or hard-knock as their hip-hop counterparts, they still do damage in a catchy, hit-chasing type of way. Here are seven diss records from pop artists perfectly capturing bitter tensions in the industry, showing just how the world’s biggest stars can still get entangled in petty rivalries.
Destiny’s Child – Survivor (2001)
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “You thought that I’d be stressed without you, but I’m chilling/ You thought I wouldn’t sell without you, sold 9 million” – Beyonce
What do you do if your girl group receives comparisons to a reality competition premised on “survival of the fittest”? For Beyonce Knowles, Kelly Rowland and their new bandmate Michelle Williams, the answer is record an album and title track named after the successful CBS show. In between the group’s sophomore release, Writings on the Wall, and their third, Survivor, Destiny’s Child lost three members: originals LeToya and LaTavia, and one half of their replacements, Farrah. Beyoncé penned this removal anthem to remind them that the group still remained on top (and was “betta than that”) despite all the mud slinging — only to receive a lawsuit from some of the suspected targets a year later.
Justin Timberlake – Cry Me A River (2001)
Suspected Target: Britney Spears
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “Girl, I refuse/ You must have me confused/ With some other guy/ The bridges were burned/ Now it’s your turn, to cry/ Cry me a river”
Considered to be one of the greatest break-up records of all time, “Cry Me A River” is seemingly autobiographical. JT’s headline-making breakup with his fellow ex-Mousekeeter left all double-denim crusaders heartbroken, but the beatboxing-laced track started feeling like more of a diss after its video came out featuring a Brit look-alike. It’s rumored that the former *NSYNC member wanted to out his adulterous ex, with the video being the perfect way to do so. Spears’ response was the please-forgive-me “Everytime,” but Timberlake wasn’t looking to pardon anytime soon.
Gwen Stefani – Hollaback Girl (2004)
Suspected Target: Courtney Love
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “So that’s right dude, meet me at the bleachers/ No principals, no student-teachers/ Both of us want to be the winner/ But there can only be one”
Apparently Gwen Stefani thought it was B-A-N-A-N-A-S when she “heard that [Courtney Love] was talkin’ s–t” about her. In an interview with Seventeen, Love was quoted saying “Being famous is just like being in high school. But I’m not interested in being the cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She’s the cheerleader, and I’m out in the smoker’s shed.” The mentioned subject decided to be harden up her persona and flip the script with a hypnotizing chant and series of hand claps to recreate that high school scene for her new nemesis.
Pink – Stupid Girls (2006)
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “Porno paparazzi girl, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl/ Baby if I act like that, flipping my blonde hair back/ Push up my bra like that, I don’t wanna be a stupid girl”
From the jump, Pink made it clear that she wasn’t the hugest fan of bubblegum pop and its leading stars when she sang “Tired of being compared to damn Britney Spears” on her 2001 single “Don’t Let Me Get Me“. By the time “Stupid Girls” came out, Alecia Beth Moore was five years older and wiser — and even more critical of the industry than she’d ever been before. Stand alone with only lyrics, “Stupid Girls” could have been relegated to another empowering warning from the star. The music video, however, spoke in ridiculing volumes. Jessica Simpson’s sex-kitten Daisy Duke role in Dukes of Hazard and Paris Hilton’s infamous sex-tape were just some of the “dumb blonde moments” parodied throughout the visual.
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “We missed you on the charts last week, damn, that’s right you wasn’t there/ Now if se-sexy never left, then why’s everybody on my shi-i-it/ Don’t hate on me just because you didn’t come up with it” – Justin Timberlake
Probably the most intriguing out of all the songs that made this list, “Give” is the pinnacle pop diss record. At its genesis, multiplatinum producers Timbaland and Scott Storch were embroiled in a bitter feud over the writing credits for noneother than Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River.” Storch also accused Timbaland of not fully producing all his own beats, referring to their peer Danja as the real mastermind. Backed by an electropop beat, Timb calls his rival just a “piano man” instead of a “real producer” like himself. He was cosigned by Danja (who helped co-produce the track) and Timberlake, who had a few generational pop feuds of his own. Timberlake had been upset that Janet Jackson placed all the blame of Super Bowl XXXVIII’s “Nipplegate” on him during an interview with Oprah. He was also not pleased with Prince’s criticism of his hit single “SexyBack”. Last but not least, Nelly Furtado on the hook directed a few downlow jabs at her pop rival Fergie — ones that she’d regret years later.
Taylor Swift – Bad Blood (2016)
Suspected Target: Katy Perry
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “Band-aids don’t fix bullet holes/ You say sorry just for show/ You live like that, you live with ghosts”
While promoting her smash album 1989, the queen of writing disses for exes caused a stir when she revealed to Rolling Stone that “Bad Blood” was about losing a friendship with someone who tried “to hire a bunch of people out from under” her. Fans automatically assumed that the song was about Katy Perry, as Perry gave the internet a Mean Girls-inspired tweet and the backup dancers from her Prism World Tour confirmed that they left Taylor Swift in the middle of her Red Tour. After Selena Gomez gave Katy Perry vibes in the action-packed music video and the drama (sort of) subsided a year later, Swift revealed to GQ that “Bad Blood” was actually written about an ex who she didn’t want to put on the spot at the time.
Katy Perry feat. Nicki Minaj – Swish Swish (2017)
Suspected Target: Taylor Swift (Katy Perry); Remy Ma (Nicki Minaj)
Hardest Hitting Lyrics: “Your game is tired/You should retire/You’re ’bout cute as/An old coupon expired” – Katy Perry
Entertainment Weekly asked Katy Perry if she was ever going to respond to “Bad Blood”. She denied it, adding, “You can’t mistake kindness for weakness and don’t come for me.” Ironically enough, Perry sings “Don’t you come for me” on her new single which features Nicki Minaj who is still (well, sort of) feuding with Remy Ma. Full of witty basketball references and haters-gonna-hate lingo, “Swish Swish” is targeted towards a “sheep” who is “calculated” but not capable of bringing down Perry’s spirits.