Bigfoot. The Loch Ness Monster. UFOs. Taylor Swift writing a song about Katy Perry stabbing her in the back.
These are just some examples of things about which conspiracy theories abound, yet none of them have ever really been proven to exist in nature.
It's fascinating, isn't it, how something becomes part of our working knowledge of a situation, at first danced around speculatively before enough has been said so that by some sort of osmosis it takes root in our brains as fact? Millions of words have been written based on the slightest of evidence and the vaguest of acknowledgements.
Now we're just talking about Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood," of course. That other stuff is nonsense.
1989 dropped on Oct. 27, 2014, and the next most exciting thing about it, second only to figuring out which lyrics referenced which guys, was the immediate assumption that "Bad Blood" was a revenge song directed at Katy Perry because...no, nothing to do with John Mayer.
Apparently three of Swift's backup dancers had left her tour in 2013 to join pal Perry's tour. All three had worked with Perry before they ever worked with Swift, and pretty much no one not intimately connected with either tour would've known the transaction had ever occurred until TMZ reported—in September 2014, a year later—that Swift was mightily ticked off by the dancers' decision, firing them on the spot after they gave notice. (Isn't it weird that quitting Taylor Swift's tour works like quitting any old job? Anyway...)
Now, why was anyone talking about such old news? Unless...word was out about "Bad Blood," a song on Taylor's then-upcoming album that addressed her old friend in Swift's usual detailed-yet-could-be-about-a-lot-of-things way.
And the curious were looking into that because Rolling Stone had just published days beforehand an extensive cover story on Swift, in which she explained the motivation behind "Bad Blood" this way:
"For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not," she was quoted as saying about, per RS, "another female artist Swift declines to name."
"She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, 'Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?' Then last year, the other star crossed a line. She did something so horrible. I was like, 'Oh, we're just straight-up enemies.' And it wasn't even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I'm surprisingly non-confrontational—you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It's awkward, and I don't like it."
Tried to hire? Does three people equal "a bunch" of people? Potato, potahto.
The RS piece came out Sept. 8. On Sept. 9, Katy Perry tweeted, "Watch out for the Regina George in sheep's clothing..."
TMZ's report hit on Sept. 10.
On Sept. 11, Taylor Swift was spotted walking around with strange cut-outs on her shirt that bared her bra.
Kidding about that last one, but in this newfangled world of subtweeting reactionaries and tacit digital confirmations, Perry's tweet enough to unmask her as the target of Swift's ire and herself as someone who harbored plenty of bad blood of her own.
Or if she hadn't before, she certainly did after Taylor's interview.
Selena Gomez would go on to be cast in what by then was widely accepted as "the Katy Perry role" in the Grammy-winninh "Bad Blood" video—a seeming sister in arms who does a job with Swift and then pushes her out a window. Very Kill Bill.
Asked if she talked to Perry about doing the video, Gomez told a New Zealand radio show, "That's false, I love Katy. I just talked to her. She's amazing. But I didn't talk about that, but i just talked to her. She's awesome."
And because of the weird way the music industry works, "Bad Blood" wasn't even released as a single until May 17, 2015, and the video premiered the same day, ensuring that the Perry vs. Swift conversation would continue for another year. Or two.
Let's take stock of the landscape. Swift's 1989 became the best-selling album of 2014 (and was second only to Adele's 25 in 2015) in the U.S. and was named Album of the Year at the 2016 Grammys. "Bad Blood" was Video of the Year at the MTV VMAs, and Best Video at the Grammys. Overall, 2015 was a titanic year for Swift, with her 1989 World Tour also the highest-grossing act of the year.
Now, it seems like she talked about the Perry issue a lot. But she actually didn't.
Even Vanity Fair admittedly projected in its September 2015 cover story on Swift: "As for the reported feud between Swift and Katy Perry—Swift's 'Bad Blood' is rumored to be about Perry, who allegedly stole Swift's touring dancers a few years ago—Swift avoided the topic. But it is hard for me not to think about Perry when Swift lands on the subject of friends she has discarded: 'I've trusted people before in friendships or relationships and have felt betrayed. I judge people based on their moral code; I think someone is nothing without a moral code. I don't care if you're talented or celebrated or successful or rich or popular, if you have no moral code. If you will betray your friend, if you will talk about them badly behind their back, if you will try to humiliate them or talk down to them, I have no interest in having a person like that in my life.'"
OK but, officially, Swift "avoided the topic."
Not that the author was alone—who hasn't thought of The Feud whenever the slightest opening has presented itself?!
Fast-forward to now, though, and the persistence of this plot line just may have more to do with Perry now than with Swift.
Because Perry has seemingly been the one subtweeting (and sub-"liking" and sub-retweeting) their relationship—or lack thereof—into perpetuity.
During a Twitter Q&A with fans on Saturday, one fan asked, "@katyperry...will you collab with Taylor swift." Perry responded, "... if she says sorry, sure!"
On first instinct, that sounds reasonable. Of course Taylor would need to apologize first for...
Hmm. For what, exactly?
Perry has never shared her side of the initial story, so it's unclear how instrumental she was—or wasn't—in the three dancers' exodus from Swift's Red Tour to her Prismatic World Tour in 2013.
Questioned about the drama last year when "Bad Blood" dropped, one of those dancers, Lockhart Brownlie, said coyly on The Jake Sasseville Show, "I don't know what you're talking about." You could practically hear Brownlie smiling when he added, "No, no comment on that." Asked if he enjoyed working with Taylor, he assured, "Yes, I did."
So all we have is something filtered through Swift's lens, and the artistic result was "Bad Blood."
Now, Perry was hardly the only person rumored—yes, still technically just rumored—to have been mentioned on 1989. Harry Styles made multiple appearances with the help of a little forensic analysis, and Jake Gyllenhaal may have made a return appearance after co-starring on Red. But it's such a girl-on-girl thing that Perry and Swift supposedly have a feud, while no one would ever say that Swift is "feuding" with Styles—or with any of her other exes, for that matter. No one even called the back-and-forth with John Mayer a feud, and he actually reacted publicly to "Dear John."
No, only women feud.
So maybe that's why Perry's under the impression that she deserves an apology, when Swift only did what she always does—write a song (with, in this case, Kendrick Lamar and Max Martin) and never, ever, 100-percent confirm who it's about.
"You're in a Rolling Stone interview, and the writer says, 'Who is that song about? That sounds like a really intense moment from your life.' And you sit there, and you know you're on good terms with your ex-boyfriend, and you don't want him—or his family—to think you're firing shots at him. So you say, 'That was about losing a friend.' And that's basically all you say," Swift told GQ last fall.
"But then people cryptically tweet about what you meant. I never said anything that would point a finger in the specific direction of one specific person, and I can sleep at night knowing that. I knew the song would be assigned to a person, and the easiest mark was someone who I didn't want to be labeled with this song. It was not a song about heartbreak. It was about the loss of friendship."
In the meantime, long before this past weekend's actual comment (however off the cuff), Perry hasn't been able to tweet a word without it being subjected to the Taylor Swift Test.
Was that about Taylor?! No? How 'bout that one?! (Heck, Perry wasn't even able to headline the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show without it being linked to Swift in some way.)
But a few of Perry's Twitter actions, frankly, must have been about Swift. If not because of some deep-seated angst but because it was just irresistibly fun to toy with the situation.
"Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman.." Perry dashed out after Nicki Minaj's tangle with Swift via Twitter, when Swift took Minaj's critique of the 2015 VMAs' nominations personally. (Bravo to Perry for leaving her tweets as they are—no remorseful deleting, no hasty edits, she just does her thing like no one's watching.)
And just this past July, following speculation that Perry's new fragrance Mad Love was a reference to a "Bad Blood" lyric (because, you know, only Katy had any input when it came to naming, packaging, marketing, etc.), Perry seemingly did chime in after Calvin Harris name-checked her mid-Twitter-rant to Swift: "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."
Perry, a big Hillary Clinton supporter, tweeted a GIF of the presidential candidate making a "well, what can ya do, that's just how it is" face. She also retweeted herself, this remark from May 9, 2015: "Time, the ultimate truth teller."
Ain't that the truth. And then Perry stayed out of the whole Taylor-Kanye West-Kim Kardashian thing. Or did she?
Yet still... What, exactly, does Taylor Swift have to apologize for? She made "Bad Blood," but that was in response to a perceived slight, not a from-out-of-nowhere attack.
Did something happen behind the scenes between them that we don't know about? (As if, right?) Otherwise, Swift already had her say and the ball is in Perry's court if she wants to bury the hatchet. Preferably not in anyone's back.
Because that might put a damper on the duet. 2017 MTV Video Music Awards. Calling it now.