“I dive into the future, but I’m blinded by the sun.” Selena Gomez delivers her first lines of new music in spoken word after her arrival at Interscope Records, officially putting her child star career at Hollywood to an end. Referring “Revival” as her debut first album, ignoring all her albums with The Scene and her 2013 album Stars Dance (absolutely not a pop album to forget though), Gomez goes through a clear change and growth in musical styles, and the result is a loud and clear shout that she is a strong rising pop star that deserves your attention.
A key part of the album that’s clearly noticeable is its experimentation that is both brave and ambitious. In 16 tracks, Revival ranges from soft mid-tempo R&B (the title track), to mainstream electro-pop (“Kill Em With Kindness”); tropical house that actually sounds like the brilliant genre that it should be (“Survivors”), to eccentric, wild Latin fusions with saxophones and horns blasting all over the place. Gomez’s visions are sky high, but still manages to deliver an hour of flowing music that blends together. In addition, she makes good use of the weaknesses in her vocal abilities – and let’s be real she isn’t necessarily the spot-on vocal powerhouse – and creates sultry, soft tones that doesn’t sound bad at all. The perfect example for this is the biggest smash of the album, “Hands To Myself”, which is a minimalist synth-pop number where Gomez’s vocals are just accompanied by one drum line in the verses. If you imagine Christina Aguilera’s voice, or even the vocals of Selena’s frequent comparative Demi Lovato going over these notes, it wouldn’t fit nearly as well as the airy, nasal voice that Gomez possesses. Along with the genius production from Max Martin, every layer of the song sounds distinctive and clear, and when the final chorus gives in to the steady buildup of previous verses layer by layer, it’s a case of brilliant pop, given to the perfect pop artist.
With a teen popstar status, of course “Revival” also contains the upbeat pop songs made to top the charts, but what’s ironic here is that they don’t shine as much as the other tracks. For example, tracks like “Same Old Love” and “Me & The Rhythm” are nice, cute songs, but really they don’t serve their purpose of soaring to the top of the charts, nor do they leave a huge impression in your head. On the contrary, alternative R&Bs slow jams are unexpectedly good, like the bitter “my-ex’s-current-is-better-than-me” anthem, “Perfect”, or the breathy indie-pop “Good For You” that can easily satisfy the ears of radio listeners with its dark, powerful choruses just as much as normal pop songs – if you can look beyond the fact that the message that it delivers turns the efforts of gender equality and feminism back a couple of years. Maybe it’s a sign that R&B is the right track to follow for Selena, and we shall see with the new album coming (hopefully) this year.
In conclusion, amongst the numerous examples of Disney child stars taking off to more adult routes, “Revival” is different from all of them. Instead of going fully wild, unpredictable and over-the-top in the case of Miley ’13, or the loud, bold confidence of Demi ’15, Gomez’s transformation is sophisticated and controlled. While putting in loads of hard experimenting, it mostly sounds well fit in, with enough pop anthems to keep it nice and commercial. “I’m reborn in every moment, so what knows what I’ll become,” she proclaims on the next lines of the title track. Her next moves are heavily anticipated, and we’re certain it’s going to be just as good.
Essentials: Hands To Myself, Good For You, Survivors
(8 / 10)