This may sound like a surprise to many, since I mostly focus on rock music reviews, but I like and respect Selena Gomez. I enjoyed her work starting on the Disney show Wizards of Waverly Place (a show that was funny, well written, and family friendly) to her work into movies and music. Although I was definitely NOT a fan of the film Spring Breakers, which I felt was a horrible career choice (both for her and co-star Vanessa Hudgens), Gomez has been a role model for her core fan base, mostly of the under thirty crowd.
Gomez’s first CD, 2009’s Kiss & Tell with the group The Scene, was actually a pretty good rock/pop release. The CD had songs written by Mathew Wilder (“Break My Stride”) and Gomez worked with The Go Go’s drummer Gina Schock. Throughout the promotion of the CD, it seemed like Gomez was going to be leaning into the rock genre, where most Disney alums went for the dance/pop/hip hop style music. From then, she recorded albums in 2010 and 2011, which although wasn’t the straight up rock, had some good tracks overall. It wasn’t until 2013’s Stars Dance where she really started into the dance mode, with a more techno/pop feel to it. Gomez’s newest CD, Rare, continues the pop/dance style of music that she has become famous for.
The CD starts off with the title track, which is a good opener to the record. The drum parts on this song starts off as if it is a demo , and not the finished product, which would be used throughout the release. The song is under four minutes long, and with nice lyrics like “Why don’t you recognize I’m so rare.” This message will resonate with her core audience in terms of relationships and staying true to who you are, much like her song “Who Says” from years before. Most of the songs on the album are short, usually under four minutes or less, which is wonderful that there are not added stuff to them to draw the tracks out just to be longer and take away from the songs.
The second track, “Dance Again,” has an ’80s New Wave style beat to it, along with empowered lyrics of walking away from a bad situation (some think it’s about one of Gomez’s past relationships). This is just a nice, feel good pop song that really works and is enjoyable to listen to.
The singles “Look At Her Now” and “Lose You To Love Me” are next, and both have the same problem in the songwriting process. There is no strength in the writing in the chorus at all. “Look At Her Now” has a catchy melody to it, but just singing “mm,mm,mm” is not an exciting chorus to jump at songwriting wise. This simplicity is used throughout the CD. It becomes old by the time the CD ends. “Lose You To Love Me” is a nice ballad (the video for both of these songs enhance the song more than just the songs on the CD) , but the chorus is the problem.
After the first two singles, “Ring” is a wonderful track. This is similar to the 1960s bubblegum style songs, (or the song “Is She Really Going Out With Him?”) and is just around the two and a half minute mark, which makes it even better, with no extra fillers on the song to make the listener get tired of it. The chorus is better written than the last two songs, and is one of the best songs on the CD.
If “Ring” reminds me of something from the 1960s, “Vulnerable” reminds me of a 1970s soul song that would been played on AM Radio at the time. Even though (again) there is no catchy chorus to latch on to, this time it works in that process.
The next two songs “People You Know” and “Let Me Get Me” are probably the worst ones on the CD. “People” has no build up to the chorus and just becomes a big run on sentence in terms of musical structure (verse/chorus/verse etc). “Let Me Get Me” sounds like a demo and is too similar to “Dance Again,” which could have been left off the CD to save hearing the same type of song twice.
“Crowded Room” features someone named 6LACK, who I never heard of. I am not a fan of any type of Rap, and usually when artists add a rapper to the song, the rap part has nothing to do with the overall song, nor does it fit the structure. However, it works rather well here. Structure wise, this song is one of the best on the CD. The chorus is catchy to sing with, the pre-chorus is great as well, and is just under three minutes, which makes the listener want more, so they have to hit the repeat button again. This song shocked me in quality and how I liked it.
“Kinda Crazy” is a fun song about someone who is not the best for the singer, with lyrics like “I think you’re kinda crazy/And not in a good way.” This song has that 1970s AM radio style to it , and has nice guitar work by Kristoffer Foglmark and Albin Nedler. This has a good groove to it, and is almost like the music I liked of Selena from her first album. Again, many will read into the lyrics comparing it to her past relationships, but don’t let that get in the way in missing the attractiveness of the track.
“Fun” is another song that goes back to just having “mm” and “ah” in the chorus and doesn’t reach the build up to a chorus that a song should have.
“Cut You Off” is a unique song. This has a slower groove to it, with a nice blues guitar solo and rhythm throughout the track by David Pramik. This is a song that Gomez’s younger fans may have a problem with, with the lyrics of her talking while “I’m drunk” and drops the S-word in the pre-chorus. Parents of younger listeners may not find the song age appropriate, but her older fans will like the song. To me, this is another really good song off the CD.
The final track “A Sweeter Place” features Kid Cudi, another person I never heard of. But just like “Crowded Room,” the guest appearance fits nicely into the overall song without distracting this listener. This is a great ending song for the CD, with a chorus one can enjoy.
The Target Exclusive Edition of the CD has bonus songs, which are “Bad Liar,” “Fetish,” “It Ain’t Me,” “Back To You,” and “Wolves (w/ Marshmello).” The reason I chose the Target Edition was to have those other singles on one CD, especially since I hadn’t listened to those when they were released. I enjoy “It Ain’t Me,” which has strong backing vocals, strong music, and a great chorus , along with “Back To You,” a song that has layered vocals and strong musicians.
Rare is lacking several things on many songs: a strong chorus including the build up to it at times, the production (at times) seems like a demo, where some of the more dance style songs lack a strong bass line in it, and some lyrics that are too simple at times, (which also repeats that process on several of the songs). However, overall, there are only two to three bad songs on here and they do not come off to the point where the listener has to get up and hit the skip button. Most songs are short enough that even if one song doesn’t appeal to the listener, it is over quickly.
I wanted to listen to a CD that is just a plain, fun musical experience (much like Taylor Swift’s Lover, which was my pick on here for best CD of last year) , and although parts of Rare can be critically analyzed (this is a review page after all!!), overall Selena Gomez succeeds here for me, much better than her last venture. And since I don’t normally listen to this type of music, in this case, being “rare” is a good thing.
Track Listing: 1. Rare 2. Dance Again 3. Look At Her Now 4. Lose You To Love Me 5. Ring 6. Vulnerable 7. People You Know 8. Let Me Get Me 9. Crowded Room (featuring 6LACK) 10. Kinda Crazy 11. Fun 12. Cut You Off 13. A Sweeter Place (featuring Kid Cudi)
Target Edition Bonus Tracks: 1. Bad Liar 2. Fetish (featuring Gucci Mane) 3. It Ain’t Me (with Kygo) 4. Back To You 5. Wolves (w/ Marshmello)