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Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish” music video is a weak salvo in her Taylor Swift feud

Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

Katy Perry has just released the official music video for “Swish Swish,” widely believed to be a response to Taylor Swift’s 2014 kiss-off anthem “Bad Blood." The video, the latest salvo in Perry's ongoing feud with Swift, dropped on Thursday morning, just hours before Swift is set to release her latest single.

On Monday, Perry announced that she’d be releasing the “Swish Swish” video at some point this week, before she hosts the VMAs on Sunday — and on Tuesday, Swift announced that she’d be releasing her own single at midnight on Thursday night.

Swift’s announcement was the kind of power move she’s been pulling increasingly frequently over the past year. In June, on the same day that Perry released her new album Witness, Swift made her entire back catalog available on Spotify for the first time since 2014 — and it all out-performed Witness.

Swift’s camp claims that Swift’s decision to put her music back on streaming had nothing to do with Perry, but it’s hard to avoid reading the subtext of that timing as a not-so-subtle dig against Perry: “My old material beats your new material without trying.” And tonight, when she releases her single, Swift is going to see if she can pull of the same trick with her new stuff.

Perry has suggested that “Swish Swish” is her way of clapping back at Swift, but as clapbacks go, it’s just a little bit … weak. The video features a cluttered and incoherent but celebrity-studded storyline wherein Perry’s basketball team (the Tigers, as in “I’ve got the eye of the”) faces off against the preening, vacuous Sheep (presumably Swift, as in “Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing”). At first the Sheep crush the Tigers, but then Nicki Minaj shows up, performs her verse (easily the song’s highlight, even without the video), and inspires Perry to achieve true greatness and rise victorious against the Sheep.

The video and song both bounce back and forth between the idea that Perry is a fierce and empowered woman who doesn’t need anyone so fuck you, sheep, and the idea that she’s a hapless-but-plucky underdog who maybe doesn’t always succeed but who sure does try her best anyway. To the extent that it has a point, it appears to be that Nicki Minaj is great, which is surely something on which we can all agree.

It remains to be seen whether Swift’s forthcoming new single can beat Perry’s new video the way she seems to be betting it can — but Perry has set a very low bar for Swift to hop over.