If the headlines of the past decade are any indication, Katy Perry and Taylor Swift might be the pop music feud of this generation. While the pair were once friends (at least, according to their exuberant social media exchanges), in recent years, there has been much in the way of coded lyrics and veiled comments. Perry even addressed the conflict directly earlier this summer. But how did these two go from mad love to bad blood? Here’s what you need to know.
July 2009: Things appear to be more than fine between burgeoning young pop princesses Swift and Perry — you might even call it a mad love affair. In a now-deleted tweet reported by People, Swift shares how much she loves Perry’s “Waking Up in Vegas” video — so much that she wants to hang a poster of the “I Kissed a Girl” singer on her wall. Perry responds by extending an invitation to write a song together “about the subject we know best” for an upcoming album.
August 2009: Things continue to be friendly and mutually flattering between the two in the months following, judging from a glowing social media exchange in which Perry made plans to catch up with Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards after the latter tweeted a photo at her.
September 2009: During the VMAs, Perry takes Swift’s side in a tweet after Kanye West jumps onto the stage and commandeers her “Best Female Video” acceptance speech with his now infamous lines, “Yo, Taylor, I’m really happy for you and Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time. One of the best videos of all time!”
October 2009: Swift tweets about Perry’s epic birthday party (which she attended), adding an affectionate “Happy bday, pretty girl!!” to an already effusive post about the event.
April 2010: Perry graces Swift’s stage during a stop in Los Angeles for an surprise duet performance of her hit “Hot N Cold.” In a now-deleted tweet, People reported that Swift wrote, “Surprise guest at Staples Center: @katyperry!! We sang Hot N Cold and jumped up and down a lot. Katy! LA! I will always love you!”
November 2011: The lovefest continues online nearly a year later when Perry replies to Swift’s tweet about her new cat, Meredith. Swift responds that she misses Perry in a now-deleted tweet, reports People.
December 2013: A seemingly innocuous interview with a dancer named Lockhart Brownlie is published by Australia’s The Examiner ; however, Swifties and KatyCats alike point to this interview as the Rosetta Stone of making sense of how the two might have fallen out.
According to Brownlie — who toured with Perry for her California Dreams world tour in 2011 and was a part of her Piece of Me documentary — he and two of Perry’s other former dancers left Swift’s Red tour to join Perry for her Prism tour. Brownlie’s justification is that he was closer to Perry and that he wasn’t dancing much on Swift’s tour.
“Obviously we were with Katy for two and a half years, she’s like family to us,” he said. “So we were, like, ‘Absolutely’. We weren’t really dancing in Taylor’s tour anyway, so I had got a little bored and I really wanted to do a promo tour.”
September 2014: In a Rolling Stone interview, Swift reveals that her song “Bad Blood,” off her upcoming album 1989, is about a female musical artist who she won’t name, who “tried to sabotage” her tour by hiring people on her staff. From there, onlookers draw a straight line to Brownlie’s account of leaving the Red tour for Perry’s Prism tour.
As is often the case in A-list circles, the pair also dated the same celebrity at different times. Perry spent two years dating John Mayer, who previously dated Swift; Mayer believed that Swift’s song “Dear John” was about him. Despite this, Swift emphasizes that the feud with the artist she mentions is not “about a guy.”
In case anyone had any doubt which “unnamed female artist” Perry believed Swift was referring to, Perry sends out a cryptic tweet — referring to Rachel McAdams’ bullying character in Mean Girls — the day after the article is published.
May 2015: Swift debuts “Bad Blood” and its accompanying music video, featuring her “squad” of very famous, very good-looking friends. The song’s lyrics are widely interpreted as Swift’s narrative about how her relationship with Perry went awry. Additionally, many fans point out that Selena Gomez’s appearance in the music video was similar to Perry’s look at the time.
July 2015: The MTV VMAs present a source of conflict for Swift yet again, but this time with a different entertainer. After Nicki Minaj took to her Twitter to sound off about not getting a nomination for her “Feeling Myself” video with Beyoncé and not receiving a “Video of the Year” nomination for her viral hit “Anaconda,” Swift reads Minaj’s tweets about the underlying racism towards women of color as a personal affront.
Swift accuses Minaj of pitting women against each other in a now-deleted tweet that TIME reported on which read: “I’ve done nothing but love & support you. It’s unlike you to pit women against each other. Maybe one of the men took your slot..”
While Minaj and Swift settle their differences over the next couple of days, Perry weighs in with a subliminal tweet that uses the term that Swift used against Minaj.
While Minaj and Swift reconcile, it’s worth noting that Minaj sends a supportive tweet in response to Perry’s cryptic message.
A few days after the incident, one of Swift’s backup dancers appears to be dressed like, and possibly mocking, the viral “left shark” from Perry’s Superbowl performance.
February 2016: While she doesn’t attend the Grammy Awards ceremony herself in 2016, Perry throws a pre-Grammys bash with Spotify. When asked by the The New York Times whether or not Swift will attend, Perry responds by confirming that an invite was extended and “it’s just up to their schedules,” an apparent move of goodwill on her part. (It’s worth noting that Swift infamously pulled her music from Spotify, which could also explain, at least in part, her reported absence from the party.)
June 2016: Perry releases a new perfume, which she names “Mad Love;” some fans see this as a backhanded reference to Swift’s diss track “Bad Blood,” the chorus of which is “Baby, now we got bad blood/you know we used to be mad love.”
July 2016: After it comes to light that Swift co-wrote “This Is What You Came For,” her ex-boyfriend Calvin Harris’ hit with Rihanna, Harris takes to his Twitter to criticize Swift in a series of now-deleted tweets, as well as her relationship with new beau (and now ex) Tom Hiddleston.
Things get more explicit, however, when he references the then-alleged feud between Swift and Perry, writing, “I know you’re off tour and you need someone new to try and bury like Katy ETC but I’m not that guy, sorry. I won’t allow it.”
In response, Perry merely tweeted a GIF of Hillary Clinton (who she campaigned for during the 2016 election) to express how she was feeling — apparently some variation on “I told you so” — and retweeted a tweet she had written over a year prior.
September 2016: When queried by a fan as to whether or not she would collaborate with Swift, Perry responds by saying that she would if Swift apologizes.
October 2016: While attending Kanye West’s concert, Perry snaps herself dancing to “Famous” as West raps lyrics referencing Swift, which she condemned.
May 2017: Ahead of the release of her album Witness, Perry touches on her alleged feud with Swift in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. When asked if the project will respond to “Bad Blood,” her answer is vague.
“One thing to note is: You can’t mistake kindness for weakness and don’t come for me,” she said. “Anyone. Anyone. Anyone. Anyone. And that’s not to any one person and don’t quote me that it is, because it’s not. It’s not about that. Honestly, when women come together and they decide to unite, this world is going to be a better place. Period, end of story. But, let me say this: Everything has a reaction or a consequence so don’t forget about that, okay, honey.”
A week later, Perry drops “Swish Swish,” an apparent diss track to Swift that enlists Nicki Minaj, whose beef of her own with Remy Ma made her a prime candidate to be on a track about a longtime feud. It’s also worth noting that Perry chose to collaborate with Minaj, who previously sparred with Swift in 2016 over VMA nominations.
Noted Swift Squad member Ruby Rose took to her Twitter to slam Perry’s new music, insinuating that the singer “went low” with her comments.
A few days after Rose’s tweets, Swift appears on “Carpool Karaoke” with James Corden, where she addresses the feud head-on.
“She started it,” Perry said. “And it’s time for her to finish it. I tried to talk to her about it, and she wouldn’t speak to me. I do the right thing any time it feels like a fumble. [I got] a full shutdown, and then she writes a song about me [‘Bad Blood’]… that’s how you want to deal with it? Karma. There’s the law of cause and effect: you do something, there’s going to be a reaction. Trust me daddy, there’s gonna be a reaction.”
June 2017: The day before Perry’s album drops on June 9, she reveals in an interview with NME that aside from “Swish Swish,” she still has more to say about her feud with Swift. “No one has asked me about my side of the story, and there are three sides of every story: one, two, and the truth,” she said. “I mean, I’m not Buddha — things irritate me. I wish that I could turn the other cheek every single time, but I’m also not a pushover, you know? Especially when someone tries to assassinate my character with little girls [her fans]. That’s so messed up!”
The same day, Swift announces that she is celebrating 1989 selling over 10 million copies worldwide and receiving the 100 million song certification from the RIAA by returning to streaming services. But Swift returns her back catalogues to streaming services on the same day as Perry’s album launch, driving the internet wild.
Following the release of Witness, Perry hosts a 72 hour livestream, during which she does an interview with Arianna Huffington for her Thrive podcast. In the interview, Perry expresses a desire to forgive Swift and move on.
“I am ready to let it go,” she said. “I forgive her and I’m sorry for anything I ever did, and I hope the same from her. I think it’s actually like, I think it’s time. There are bigger fish to fry, and there are real problems in the world. You know what I’m saying? And I love her, and I want the best for her. And I think she’s a fantastic songwriter, and I think that, you know, if we, both her and I, can be representatives of strong women that come together despite their differences, I think the whole world is going to go like, ‘Yeah, well we can do this.’ I don’t know. Like maybe I don’t agree with everything she does and she doesn’t agree with everything I do, but I just really truly want to come together in a place of love and forgiveness and understanding and compassion. There’s a lot of other things out there in the world that people need to be focused on, and I truly, like, God bless her on her journey. God bless her.”
The same day, Perry does an interview with the Today Show where she insists that “Swish Swish” isn’t “about anyone in particular.”
The livestream concludes with Swift giving an outdoor concert for her fans. During the concert, she performs “Swish Swish,” but changes the lyrics of the first line from “Don’t you come for me,” to “God bless you on your journey, oh baby girl.”
In an interview with Australia’s The Today Show, Perry doubles down on her desire to make amends with Swift by stating that she loves her despite their differences. “I love her, I always have,” she said. “We’ve had our differences but I just continue to say, ‘God bless her on her journey.'”
However, some people see it as an affront to Swift when Perry teams up with Swift’s ex Calvin Harris on “Feels.”
August 2017: Perry drops her Space Jam-inspired music video for “Swish Swish” a day after Swift announces the release date and reveals the art for her new album, Reputation. Coincidence? With these two, who knows.
The next day, Swift drops the first single off Reputation, a song called “Look What You Made Me Do.” Fans pointed to lyrics and a beat that seemingly reference scenes in the movie Mean Girls as possible shots to Perry, who had previously sent a tweet referencing the character Regina George.
At the MTV Video Music Awards, which is being hosted by Katy Perry, the music video for “Look What You Made Me Do” debuts. While the video contains plenty of shots at those who Taylor feels have attacked her reputation, Swift appears to impersonate Perry in one scene with a similar haircut and by wearing leopard print with a pet leopard (a veiled reference to Perry’s fans who are called “Katy Cats”); she also holds a Grammy award, which some think points to the fact that Swift has won multiple Grammys, while Perry hasn’t won any despite multiple nominations. Later, Perry makes a cheeky reference to Taylor Swift’s zombie-like persona in her new music video during a monologue as the host.
While Perry has been vocal about her desire to end the feud, with Swift’s new album set to arrive in November — and with it, the potential for more drama — it remains to be seen whether there’s an end in sight for the bad blood between the megastars.
November 2017: Taylor Swift releases her long-anticipated album Reputation and while the bulk of the songs center around her love life, her song “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” includes a closing lyric that could reference Perry’s vocal address of their longtime association. This summer, Perry said that she was “ready to let go” of the wounds and “forgive” Swift. While Taylor stayed mum at the time, her song lyrics might just speak volumes on their own, with Taylor singing “here’s to you because forgiveness is a nice thing to do” before breaking into laughter and stating that she “can’t even say it with a straight face.”
Additionally, Taylor released two zines to accompany the album, one of which revealed that the extras in the “Look What You Made Me Do” video during the paparazzi scene (where many Swifties felt that Taylor’s persona bore a striking similarity to Perry) were dancers from her 1989 tour, in what might be a sneaky wink at how it all began.