But there’s another album that is almost as good as ‘E·MO·TION’: ‘Revival’ by Selena Gomez.
Pre-2015, Selena Gomez hadn’t really delivered much more than the occasional bop. ‘Love You Like A Love Song’, ‘Naturally’ and ‘Come & Get It’ are all nines or tens, but the albums haven’t lived up to the promise of the singles.
Then, in late 2014, Selena debuted ‘The Heart Wants What It Wants’, and icy R&B ballad complete with a ridiculous awards show performance (those projections though). This was a proper introduction to grown-up Selena.
The thing about doing a ‘grown-up’/’re-invention’ album is that there is a very fine line between working and being half-baked. For every ‘Stripped’ and ‘Bangerz’, there’s a ‘Confident’. The music needs to be far enough away from the last album that it matches the ‘fresh’ image, but still not completely alienating.
“I dive into the future, but I’m blinded by the sun” is a bold way to open to any album, and in the hands of another popstar, it could sound like a parody (see Tulisa’s ‘Intro’). But Selena makes it work. This album was her first from her split with Justin Bieber, so she really was moving on whilst being constantly watched by the press.
Not only is ‘Revival’ her break-up album, it is the album meant to take Selena from being the second best Disney popstar (after Miley Cyrus, obviously) to a proper popstar. To do so, the credits are scattered with the pop elite, including Stargate (Rihanna’s ‘What’s My Name’ and Alexis Jordan’s ‘Happiness’), Mattman & Robin (Hailee Steinfeld’s ‘Love Myself’) and Max Martin.
There are moments on the album where it looks like Selena could become the pop girl. ‘Hands To Myself’ is the most obvious moment, a song about being all over a guy at the start of a relationship. Like, no matter how you hate PDA, it doesn’t matter cos you’re so into them. Produced by Max Martin and Mattman & Robin, it manages to sound completely original but perfectly in line with the post-1989 80s revival.
The thing with ‘Revival’ is that there isn’t one cohesive sound. ‘The Heart Wants What It Wants’ teased a new electro R&B sound, which is here on ‘Good For You’ and ‘Revival’. But Selena plays with Disco on ‘Me & The Rhythm’ (which, in the hands of Jeppo, would sound like an updated ‘Music Gets The Best Of Me’), Latino Pop on ‘Body Heat’ and ‘Outta My Hands (Loco)’ and Pure Pop on ‘Kill ‘Em With Kindness’ and ‘Same Old Love’.
No, Selena Gomez is not an ‘artist’ in the same way as say, Lana Del Rey or what Rihanna is trying to achieve with ‘ANTi’. But Selena is the perfect vehicle for bops, and is all the better for it. Trends are jumped on across the album (most noticeably on the Kygo-lite ‘Survivors’), but this isn’t meant to be anything more than a great pop album. What it lacks in originality, it makes up for by being completely carefree and effortless. It’s subtle too; the only song on this album that really slaps you round the face immediately is ‘Me & My Girls’, which is a loud ‘squad goals’ anthem.
But still, the vast majority of the songs feel like they play to Selena’s strengths. She’s not the best vocalist of all time, but most of this album is well within her range. Where others would mime, Selena loves a live vocal, and songs like ‘Hands To Myself’ and ‘Good For You’ cater to her vocal range. The album only really dips with ‘Camouflage’; a song that is clearly designed to be a ‘tour moment’, but is probably a step too far vocally. She’s not the best dancer too, and fortunately, she’s not been pushed to do anything that requires complicated choreography (even the most up-tempo moment ‘Me & The Rhythm’ just requires some walking backwards and forwards on the stage).
However, for all her limitations, ‘Revival’ is Selena at her best, and is exactly the kind of album to establish her as a proper popstar. Now, let’s get on with a tour.
[side note: ‘Hands To Myself’ has crept up and is now one of my favourites of year so there’s that].