Halsey is known for songs that chronicle vulnerability and hesitation to let someone in. Even when the relationship does start, she remains guarded. In “Finally // beautiful stranger,” she admits that she “used to think loving meant a painful chase.” It takes effort for her to let herself fall in love. “Bad At Love” is another open song. She chronicles a few hookups she’s had and what made them end. Was it drugs? A “get back in the kitchen” attitude from a guy? She keeps trying, but “always makes the same mistakes.” It’s difficult to tell whether the song is hopeful or not. Halsey’s version is interesting musically because while the beat is slowed down and trap-influenced, she sings really fast.
Old Dominion takes their turn with the song for a Spotify Single. They give it an urgent, rock-heavy tone that really works; it calls to mind mid-00s pop-punk. That attitude is especially true at the chorus. Matthew Ramsey almost yells that he’s bad at love. It seems defiant, deflective; stay away or you’re going to get hurt. The twist of the cover is that Old Dominion keeps all the pronouns. It’s still a bisexual song, but now it’s sung from a male perspective. That captures the essence of “Bad At Love,” I think – not just the queerness, but that anyone, regardless of gender or attraction or inclination, can make mistakes in relationships. The important part is to keep trying.
Old Dominion’s cover: