“Swish Swish” Video a Slam Dunk?

Nicki motivates Perry in “Swish Swish” as well as motivating the Swift/Perry “feud” rumors.

Katy Perry has released the music video for “Swish Swish” featuring Nicki Minaj.

In a move that some believe is strategic, Perry released the song on the same day—and hours before—Taylor Swift is set to release a single from her recently-announced upcoming album. Perry announced that she would release the video sometime this week, ahead of hosting the VMAs this Sunday. Swift then announced that she’d be releasing her new single at midnight on Thursday.

Some speculate that “Swish Swish” is a jab at Swift, as well as a play on her name. Swift’s 2014 single “Bad Blood” was reportedly aimed at Perry. According to Vox, “Swift’s an nouncement was the kind of power move she’s been pulling increasingly frequently over the past year.” When Perry released her latest album, Witness, in June, Swift “happened” to make her entire musical catalogue available on Spotify. This was the first time all of Swift’s music was available on the streaming service and it performed significantly better than Witness did.

Swift’s representatives denied that the move was strategic.

Regardless of whether there’s any substance to this “feud,” or if it’s just another patriarchal trope used to pit two successful women against each other, Perry’s video is definitely something to see.

By early Thursday evening, it already had nearly 6.5 million views and was YouTube’s number one trending video of the day.

It utilizes the characteristic campy and goofy tone notable in many of Perry’s videos, with a decent amount of tongue-in-cheek and self-aware humor.

In it, Perry is a part of a ne’er-do-well basketball team, the Tigers (“I’ve got the eye of the…”) facing off against the much more skilled Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (that’s literally their mascot).

There are a pleasurable plethora of visual and verbal puns, and though the video isn’t revolutionary or high-brow in any way, it’s definitely fun. Like Swift in her video for “Blank Space,” Perry doesn’t take herself too seriously and pokes fun at her public image. In “Blank Space,” Swift embraces the reputation she’s gotten for being a “crazy-ex-girlfriend” by playing an obsessive and emotionally intense—well, a crazy-ex-girlfriend.

Both videos also utilize exagerated and ridiculous imagery to add to the fun and humor. In “Blank Space,” Swift is surrounded in her canopy bed by two literal white stallions, for example.


In “Swish Swish,” one basketball player swallows a basketball in graphics reminiscent of the basketball cult film, Space Jam.

The visual effects are cheap, but that seems intentional. When Perry jumps for the ball at the beginning of the game, she and her competitor rise into the air approximately 10 feet and then hover there; and though they don’t show the viewer the suspension chords, they don’t mask the way that the effect was accomplished. There’s also a low-budget-looking moment where Perry flies through space; it’s what Kanye’s “Bound 2” would have been had he played it like it was a joke and then let his fans in on it.

One thing Perry’s video has to be noted for is her ability to assemble a cast.

Molly Shannon is perfectly Molly Shannon-esque as the coach for Perry’s team, and well cast in a video about a bunch of dweebs finding their confidence (see below). Terry Crews is also perfectly Terry Crews-esque—in that he should be intimidating but is actually hilarious and adorable—with the only big difference being his absurd straight, bowl-cut-style wig.

Retired basketball commentator Bill Walton plays one of the game’s commentators as does sportscaster Rich Eisen.

Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo (the adorable kid with no teeth who is an angel onscreen and off) is one member of Perry’s Tigers, as is Glee’s Jenna Ushkowitz. You may also recognize Vine and social media comedian and star Christine Sydelko and queer, plus-sized model Dexter Mayfield, made barely less beautiful by a cosmetic uni-brow.

Other cast members for the video include Russell “Backpack Kid” Horning, who developed a social media following for his distinctive dance moves and deadpan facial expressions and received his nickname (which is used in “Swish Swish, as well as variated to “Pack Man”) after performing with a backpack on during a Katy Perry appearance on SNL. He has also appeared in music videos for Ayo & Teo, Blac Youngsta,

There is a world strongman and a world strongwoman, a professional football player, a professional basketball player, a competitive eater, Carter Wilkerson who “broke twitter” by tweeting Wendy’s and asking “How many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” Wendy’s replied with an impossible-seeming “18 million.” When Carter responded to his followers “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.” A hashtag formed, #nuggsforcarter, and Wendy’s own account even retweeted his message. He didn’t officially meet that goal, but his tweet quickly became the most retweeted one in the history of Twitter, bypassing Ellen Degeneres’ star-studded Oscar selfie, and Wendy’s decided that was good enough for them. After 3.42 million retweets, Carter got his nuggs. Wendy’s also donated $100,000 in Carter’s name to Dave Thomas’ Foundation for Adoption.

So, that guy’s in the video.

The “ladies of GLOW” and the West Hollywood Cheerleaders (talented and hilarious drag queens) lead the cheers for each team, with one squad waving their pom-poms and one just waving their muscles—because gender is a construct.

Rounding out the video’s credited cast is Amanda LaCount, the #BreakingTheStereotype dancer who was told she “was too fat to be a dancer” and proved all her body-shamers wrong. And, finally, there’s a pug called Doug and Katy Perry’s beloved puppy, Nugget.

Katy Perry, who should always have a platinum pixie-cut, falls down a lot which only really serves to make her even more relatable, on top of casting real people who’ve become internet-famous and celebrities who are brilliant but underappreciated. Her entire cast is people who don’t necessary look like “everyone else,” but they aren’t Hollywood types with nearly-unattainable looks, either.

Nothing Molly Shannon tries can make her team winners, it seems, including pumping Perry full of an I.V. of “Kobe sweat” (perhaps a reference to Michael Jordan’s Secret Stuff in Spacejam). 

When all seems lost, Perry hits her head and hallucinates a blue-tinted, futuristic vision of Nicki Minaj performing her rap verse for the song. The verse is one of the most convincing moments that the song may be a reference to the alleged Swift feud: “don’t even try to double back, I already despise you,” Minaj sings, reminding us that her voice is quite nearly as gorgeous as her rapping is phenomenal. Minaj’s verse also includes the lyrics “silly rap beefs just get me more checks,” “all that fake love you shown’ couldn’t even disguise you,” and in a final dig potentially to Swift-Swift-Bish, “I only rock with Queens, so I’m makin’ hits with Katy.”

She then magically ends up with a basketball, appears right in front of Perry who is shaking stars out of her eyes (from her head injury but also because it’s freaking Nicki Minaj) and says: “Get it together Katy” and tosses her the ball.

Following another of her themes, Perry then finds not only  her own empowerment but also helps her teammates find it, too resulting in some “Backpack Kid” dancing and lots of straining grimaces.

The bad-news-tigers find that their flaws can now be used to their advantage, and though Perry doesn’t do a Michael Jordan style stretch-arm dunk, she does do some multi-flip slams, including one that breaks the backboard. She then high-fives with her male-stunt double, shown in a similar pixie-style wig, and shrugs at the camera as if to say “there’s no way I could do that.”

Then, as they come back from a score of zero to take the lead, Terry Crews’ head explodes  and everyone partakes in a celebratory dance party, including a moment where they all do the signature, stiff-armed Backpack Kid dance.

The video, so far, is either REALLY ENTHUSIASTICALLY LOVED by people on twitter, or kind of shrugged off. Vox shrugged it off because it wasn’t a sharp blow in the alleged battle with Swift; but, overall, it’s fun, smart, entertaining, and relatable. The song is also catchy and it’s definitely a video that’ll be hard to get tired of after multiple viewings.

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