Selena Gomez reaffirms herself as a capable musician, even if she takes minimal risks in the process.
From the heartbreak of ‘Lose You To Love Me’ to the self-defining and self-loving ‘Rare’, Selena Gomez‘s expansive RARE proves a powerhouse of an album, marking itself as her best and most mature album yet.
Selena Gomez has come along away from her Disney channel days. A capable actress and a unique persona, she’s been captivating us since 2007 (even earlier if you count her presence on Barney and Friends). After ditching the name ‘Selena Gomez & The Scene’, her first two solo albums received applaudable success but never seemed to stick around long enough to make an impact. They hosted an array of catchy songs, but never pushed the singer in a new or exciting direction. That’s why RARE then proves successful on all fronts, lending itself to a great listening experience that seems to push Gomez in new and exciting directions. Where some songs make more of an impact than others, this feels like the first truly great album of Selena Gomez’s career and demonstrates how a well-needed hiatus can be the thing that launches you to new heights.
Gomez’s album aptly starts with the title track ‘Rare’, a song that focuses on a celebration of Gomez’s self-worth against the backdrop of a lacklustre relationship. It celebrates an individuality within the singer and has a self-affirming attitude that gives Gomez a strength of character, preaching to a stronger female image rather than the melancholy and hopelessness in heartbreak does. While the song is melodically quite simple, in frames the lyrics as its key, with a punchy beat and strong vocals giving the song a certain buoyancy that helps keeps its message afloat. It’s no surprise then when the second track ‘Dance Again’ takes a similarly strong position, focusing on seizing control of your life. Lyrics like “happiness ain’t something you sit back, and you wait for” or “confidence is throwing your heart through every brick wall”, explore empowerment while placed alongside a musical accompaniment that aptly has a rhythm you can’t help move to. Other songs like ‘Look At Her Now’, ‘Cut You Off’ and, ‘Let Me Get Me‘, all have an element to them that makes them either introspective or reflective, embodying a firm idea of self-love and self-worth that Selena has come to affirm in herself. It helps make the album feels like it’s more than generic pop about love and relationships, but about taking control and recognising your own importance.
That’s not to say that Gomez’s album is all punchy tracks with some bass to dance along to. Her slowest and most vulnerable song, ‘Lose You To Love Me’, is arguably the best on the album, marketing her highest-charted single as well. It’s a song with a slow and soothing piano melody that alternates a handful of chords while moving through lyrics that capture and contrast ideas of vulnerability. The listener is guided through the pain in its words, the song only claiming its strength in the final moments. It’s one that demonstrates how Selena Gomez has matured as an artist, representing the sensibilities of someone who has experienced more heartbreak as well as mental health issues without letting it compromise her ideas of self-worth. It’s a genuinely moving song that seems at odds to the more upbeat songs that decorate the album but provides a great reprieve that helps drive the fact that this album is more than just some strong pop-anthems.
Of course, the album isn’t defined only by its lyrics. In the way of musicality, the majority of the songs make great use of a steady beat and a host of instruments that gives each song a particular “kick” – even if at times this feels repetitive. Songs like ‘Ring’ or ‘Crowded Room’ have a simplicity to them that accentuates its rhythm and don’t over-complex the desire to make the listener move along with them. In ‘Look At Her Now’, the sudden change in music that happens at the chorus throws it in the same vein as Taylor Swift’s ‘Look What You Made Me Do’, both songs using the change as a way to preach a simple message against the more charged lyrics. Then, a few songs are slower, more meaningful, bringing in more instruments as melodies are developed, and the album takes on something that becomes recognisable as Selena Gomez’s style. It has a particular listening experience to it that feels authentic and raw, and the lack of complication with overbearing accompaniment is really to frame the lyrics as a key focus while allowing for more intoxicating desire to dance along to the songs. It’s simplicity lets emphasis become thrown on the beat rather than a cacophony of instruments detracting from it.
To put it simply, Selena Gomez has undoubtedly done the best album of her career so far. It’s charted at No.1 in the Billboard Top 100 and is both deeply personal as well as just a great listen. While not sounding completely unique, nor does it have much going on in terms of musicality, it makes up for it with empowering lyrics and indefatigable attempt to make you move along with the rhythm constantly. It’s a shame Gomez doesn’t attempt to push herself in any new ways, playing safer than expected for such a personal album, but that doesn’t detract from how great it really is.
Selena Gomez’s RARE is out now via Interscope Records.