It’s the celebrity feud that just won’t quit. Mere hours after releasing her third single “Swish Swish,” from her upcoming Witness, pop afficionados have been quick to deem Katy Perry’s latest an obvious diss track about Taylor Swift. The two pop royals have been feuding since at least 2013, supposedly over Katy having stolen one of Taylor’s backup dancers. Doesn’t sound like that big a deal, right? But this is the world of pop music, so of course it was a big deal. Ever since, the Top 40 queens have been throwing shade at each other on Twitter, in interviews and in lyrics. Swift’s 2015 mega-hit “Bad Blood,” about a friendship gone wrong, was obviously about Perry.
Now Perry is taking a stab at a revenge-song radio hit, complete with some spits from Nicki Minaj, who herself took issue with Swift after the basic white-girl vid for “Bad Blood” took top honors at the MTV Video Music Awards over Minaj’s thick-girl anthem “Anaconda.” The two famously made up on stage at the ceremony, but apparently it was all for show—much like the rest of these shenanigans.
Swift’s buddy Ruby Rose has already called out Perry’s track on Twitter, calling it a “sloppy mess” and saying that releasing a revenge track in the middle of political turmoil is tone-deaf.
I just think with everything going on in the world to go from rebranding as political activist only to ditch it and go low.. is.. a bummer.— Ruby Rose (@RubyRose) May 19, 2017
But aside from all this hullabaloo that is surely sending TMZ into a happy tizzy, how does Perry’s track stack up as a fuck-you anthem? In short, not well. For one, the tune’s eurodance, Fun Factory-esque feel and Fatboy Slim cameo undercuts the validated rage one should feel while listening to a diss track. Second, the vitriol needs to live in the lyrics, but Perry’s are PG and feel leftover from a Teeange Dream writing session. Consider “Swish”’s second verse: “Your game is tired / You should retire / You’re ‘bout cute as / An old coupon expired.” Sick burn right? Personally, I can’t wait for someone to call me as cute as an expired coupon when I cut them off in traffic.
Thus far, Witness, due June 9, has had a hard time getting a jump start, with Perry’s first single, “Chained to the Rhythm,” barely making a blip on radio, even after a Grammy performance. We’re not sure “Swish Swish” will do much to catapult this record into breaking records.
In the meantime, while Perry watches both the backlash and support roll in on Twitter, we at Playboy thought we’d countdown some much better, more hateful, more anthemic revenge songs better suited for your fall-out of the week. Note: Every song on this list sounds better the louder you play it.
Much ink has been spilled over the Nas-Jay Z feud, so we’ll keep this brief. Jay recorded “Takeover” over a Kanye beat that went at Nas hard. Nas nodded, went into the studio and came out with a track that opens with gunshots and “Fuck Jay Z.” We won’t endorse the homophobic and offensive lyrics, but there’s a reason that dissing someone brutally is called ethering and not taking over. This song is one of the most vicious four-and-a-half minutes ever recorded. Jay Z even got so mad that he recorded the “Super Ugly” freestyle in response, which crossed enough lines of taste that Jay’s mom made him publicly apologize for insulting Nas’s baby mama.—Michael Hafford
“SO WHAT,” P!NK
It’s easy to dismiss high-flying P!nk as a joke artist, but before her impressive aerial acts, she was by far the most rugged female pop artist in the genre. Case in point: 2008’s “So What,” a song equivalent to sticking your tongue out while giving the finger…while bleeding. It’s about handling the dissolution of your relationship with grace and maturity: by telling the one you’ve loved to fuck off and then going out, getting shitfaced and fighting with strangers.
With unfettered fury, zero pride and the rawness of an open wound, P!nk’s tongue-in-cheek anthem of animosity, substance abuse and straight-up denial is at once empowering and embarrassing—and that’s the point. There’s no revenge quite like the one you enact on yourself, so cheers to being your own worst enemy and “winning” the breakup. Extra points to P!nk for being more aggressive than most juiced-up dudes.—Anna del Gaizo
“BACK TO BACK,” DRAKE
Have you ever seen what happens when a spindly six-foot-three guard tries to stop LeBron James from going 0-100, straight to the hole? That’s what this felt like. Meek Mill should have never engaged with Drake in the first place, but he did, accusing him of using a ghostwriter to write his raps. So Drake did what any self-respecting former child-star-turned-Canadian-rap-god would do. He unleashed a furious set of bars, ripping Meek for being less famous than his then-girlfriend Nicki Minaj (“Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?) and for using Twitter as his weapon of choice (“Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers”). Once the dust settled, Drake emerged with his street cred intact, and a Grammy nod for good measure. Nothing. But. Net.—Dan Barna
"YOU’VE GOT ANOTHER THING COMIN’,” JUDAS PRIEST
When it comes to the heavy metal band that was at the forefront of using razor blades to cut cocaine, you wouldn’t expect a bold, life-affirming power ballad. But that is precisely what “You’ve Got Another Thing Coming” is, despite it’s packaging. This masterpiece comes off of Judas Priest’s record Screaming for Vengeance, wherein they tried to bridge their heavy metal roots with the public’s desire for arena rock. What results is either the most rock-and-roll heavy metal album, or the most heavy metal rock-and-roll album.
Regardless of which genre applies more, the song perfectly encapsulates an all-encompassing pursuit of revenge against the system. As the world wags its finger in your face demanding that “you better not want too much,” the song rebels against a system that denies musicians the individualism it claims to embrace. The song perfectly speaks to the ineffable revenge against societal expectations we all desire—especially when authorities got you down.—Cole Sadler
“HIT 'EM UP,” 2PAC
In terms of brutal openings, how about “That’s why I fucked your bitch, you fat motherfucker”? The diss is somehow made even more hilarious because 2Pac enlists the Outlawz to drop some legitimately trash bars in the middle of the track. He opens with a murder threat that he knows is so powerful that he can just turn it over to the idiot squad for the remainder. Then, he pops back in to deliver some spoken-word disses. He asks if one of them has sickle cell, threatens more murder and then says “Fuck Mobb Deep, fuck Biggie. Fuck Bad Boy as a staff, record label and as a motherfuckin’ crew.”
The video itself is full of rude caricatures of Bad Boy artists. (2Pac snatches faux-Lil Kim’s wig.) Because Biggie and 2Pac were later murdered, this track is kind of immortal. Oh, and we’d be remiss not to mention “Who Shot Ya?”, which was recorded after 2Pac was shot. Nothing harder than claiming credit for a shooting.—Michael Hafford
“YOU OUGHTA KNOW,” ALANIS MORISSETTE
Let’s take it back to 1995, a simpler time when Bill Clinton was president and people were startled that a normal-looking young woman could possess such high levels of rage. Alanis Morissette perfected the art of being pissed off with her breakout single “You Oughta Know” even if, in a bizarre twist, Uncle Joey from Full House is the bad guy in question. It has it all: sarcasm (“I’m sure she would make a really excellent mother”), self-congratulatory sex boasts (“Would she go down on you in a theater?”), threats (“I’m not gonna fade as soon as you close your eyes, and you know it"), point-blank questions deserving of answers (“And are you thinking of me when you fuck her?”) and yes, the verbalization of the desire for revenge (“And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it”). Apparently, Canadians aren’t that nice all the time. With plenty of heavy breathing, finger-pointing and excruciating candor, Morissette made every mid-1990s-era man with a girlfriend think twice before calling it quits.—Anna del Gaizo
“HOW TO ROB,” 50 CENT
This isn’t aimed at a particular person so much as it’s aimed at literally everyone. 50 needed some heat behind his debut record, so he took aim at every living person in the rap game and provided this extremely helpful guide for how to steal from them. While his star has since dimmed, it’s hard to overstate how bracing this record was when it came out in 1999. We had just exited an era of tension between pop and gangsta rap, seemingly with the Bad Boy house style having won. Then 50 jumped into the fray and everyone collectively realized that gangsta rap just needed a new avatar. Of course, his entry was also supernova in that it ended with the genre being a much-diminished shadow of itself.
But on this track alone, 50 disses (in order) Lil’ Kim, Puff Daddy, Whitney Houston, Bobby Brown, Brian McKnight, Keith Sweat, Harlem World, Mase, Cardan, ODB (RIP), Foxy Brown, Kurupt, Jay Z, Case, Mary J. Blige, Tone, Poke, Slick Rick, Stevie J, Big Pun (RIP), Master P, Slikk The Shocker, Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, Timbaland, Missy Elliot, Joe, Jermaine Dupri, Da Brat, DMX, Treach, DJ Clue, TQ, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, RZA, Sticky Fingaz, Canibus, Juvenile, Blackstreet, R. Kelly (implied), Boyz II Men, Mike Tyson, Mister Cee, Busta Rhymes, Flipmode Squad and Kirk Franklin. That’s pretty much every relevant person in hip hop. So, yeah.—Michael Hafford
“CRY ME A RIVER,” JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE
Hell hath no fury like a pretty boy scorned. In his savage single “Cry Me a River,” from his all-grown-up debut album Justified, Justin Timberlake tells the sordid tale of his three-year relationship with Britney Spears, who, as the lyrics suggest, cheated on him. The most damning lines? “You don’t have to say, what you did. I already know. I found out from him.”
Killing all speculation about the source material, the actress in “River”’s video bears an uncanny resemblance to the Slumber Party songstress, dangerously low-rise jeans and all. Some even argue Spears’s “Liar”, released in 2016, is a direct—albeit pretty tardy—response to Timberlake’s tumultuous tune. “I’m not going to specifically say if any song is about anybody,” JT said of the pointed reference. “I will say writing a couple of songs on the record helped me deal with a couple of things.” Okay, Justin. We got you. Wink, wink.—Bobby Box
“FLAWLESS REMIX,” BEYONCE FEATURING NICKI MINAJ
We’re not sure whether Beyoncé is telling off the media, Jay or the Standard hotel employee who leaked video of sister Solange’s elevator brawl with her hubby, but in “Flawless,” Queen Bey is making sure you know you’d be a fool to cross her. The remix adds something psychotic to the original—an empowering anthem by its title alone—and the end product is a manic three-minute lyrical listicle of why the singer is better than any gossip columnist, hater and unfaithful man: “This diamond, flawless, my diamond, flawless / This rock, flawless, my Roc, flawless / I woke up like this, I woke up like this.” Released four months after the elevator ride that shook the world, “Flawless Remix,” featuring Nicki Minaj, reminded the world how untouchable Yoncé is.—Shane Michael Singh
“IDIOT WIND,” BOB DYLAN
Bob Dylan is easily perhaps the greatest wordsmith of the last century, so it comes as no surprise he brought us of the most subtly scathing, heavily loaded and emotional songs about breaking up of all time with “Idiot Wind,” off 1975’s epic Blood on the Tracks. It’s hard to sustain such measured malice—dosed with wistfulness for what could have been—for nearly eight minutes, but Dylan makes it seem effortless.
Clearly, he was so burned by his former love (it was written in the summer of 1974, when he was splitting from then-wife Sara, but Dylan denies it’s about her), he had venom to spare. Just because Dylan has a ridiculously eloquent way with the English language doesn’t mean he can’t be blunt as fuck: “You’re an idiot, babe / It’s a wonder that you still know how to breathe.” A simultaneous epithet and tender farewell, the mournful “Idiot Wind” is also about emancipation. Lines like “I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I’m finally free” make this an anthem that inspires a sigh of relief once the ache has subsided.—Anna del Gaizo
“CONTROL,” BIG SEAN FEATURING KENDRICK LAMAR AND JAY ELECTRONICA
When Big Sean unleashed this heater in summer 2013, featuring a blistering three-minute verse from Kendrick Lamar, no think pieces were needed to decrypt whether this was a diss track. The song was met with a stunned, almost religious silence; Lamar wanted us to know exactly what his intentions were, so much so that he called out 11—11!—rappers by name. The torrent of syllables, masterful pacing and unrelenting verbal jabs—it’s all here. But what made “Control” such a game changer is the ripple effect it had on Lamar’s contemporaries (if you can call them that). He brought the competition back to an art form that was too often resting on its laurels. By attacking an entire genre, Lamar changed it.—Dan Barna
“FUCK YOU RIGHT BACK,” FRANKEE
Best known for its expletive-laden lyrics, one-hit wonder Eamon sings a particularly ferocious song perfect for an angry individual who opts for anger over sadness after a breakup. Though he’s had a rough go at it, judging by the lyrics, it’s hard to feel bad for the guy, considering he calls this woman a “hoe” and “bitch” throughout the entire song, as if he wrote it after one too many vodka-sodas. That same year, in Inception-like fashion, a diss track to the diss track called “Fuck You Right Back” was released by the relatively (and still) unknown female artist Frankee, which told the other side of the story. Being just as petty, she sings about how she “faked it all along” and explained that “his sex was whack.” How cutesy the song sounds is actually part of its appeal as a ridiculous guilty pleasure. Not surprising, these two never actually dated; it was merely an act to sell albums.—Bobby Box
“HOLD UP,” BEYONCE
The only artist with two tracks on this list, Beyoncé’s first cut from Lemonade is simply great because it positions Beyoncé not only as the victim, but the victor. After being torn down by an unnamed cheating person (Jay Z, who is, like, all over this list), Beyoncé emerges from a church in a yellow dress, wielding a bat, with Ezra Koenig’s Yeah Yeah Yeahs-referencing chorus bumping in the background.
To understand the impact of this song, you have to understand that Beyoncé is singing it. You also have to understand that nobody messes with Beyoncé (see above). When “Hold Up” debuted on HBO, it caused Twitter to briefly self-immolate before being reborn like a phoenix. The video is, for obvious reasons, iconic. You can’t beat Beyoncé smashing cars with a bat, laughing the entire time. You just can’t. And the concept of being loved by anyone other than Beyoncé? A brutal diss if ever we’ve heard one. —Michael Hafford
“BAD BLOOD,” TAYLOR SWIFT
Okay, hear us out: if Kendrick Lamar doesn’t take himself so seriously that he can’t enjoy a fluffy tween anthem, neither should you. While Lamar’s cameo on “Bad Blood”’s radio edit was probably solely designed to introduce the new rap king to new radio audiences, it does make the song stand out from literally every other Swift song, which are literally all diss tracks. On its own, the bass-heavy, manufactured track is hardly raw and way less intropective than 1989’s original version, but it is an unapologetic rager—the kind of track that will still sound good five years from now and whenever you’re six shots in. And when listened side-by-side with Katy Perry’s “Swish Swish,” it’s easy to discern who’s the winner in this grudge match.—Shane Michael Singh