‘Rare’ by Selena Gomez couldn’t sound more commonplace

Stream on Spotify

Rating: 5/10

Add to library: Rare, People You Know, Lose You to Love Me, Look At Her Now

What’s to be done with this Selena Gomez? At best, she’s an impossibly gorgeous singer-actress-TV producer with impeccable taste in A&R teams.

At worst, the 27-year-old validates the views of every pop snob by living up to stale preconceptions of the modern popstar. 

The voice? Paper thin! The songs? Calorie-free! Performance ability? Apathetic to the point of contempt for the institution of music as a whole!!!

Rare is Selena’s first album since the cool, wispy melodies of 2015’s Revival accidentally thrust her ahead of the electropop curve. Rather than grow and course-correct the most embarrassing aspects of her artistry, the campaign has so far been about Selena digging in her heels – which might explain her infamously stiff ‘dancing’ at the American Music Awards last November (a rare bit of promo that Team Gomez has all but scrubbed from the web). 

As much as it pains me to admit, the impact Revival continues to have is difficult to overstate, inspiring everyone from Britney Spears to Camila Cabello (whose worldwide #1 ‘Havana’ pilfered from ‘Same Old Love’), and helped turn songwriter Julia Michaels into a Grammy-nommed star in her own right. I’d go as far as to argue that Selena’s ASMR tease ‘Hands to Myself’ helped pave the way for Billie Eilish’s claustrophobic hellscapes on the charts. 

That Rare should stick largely to the same formula makes sense, both commercially and creatively. Once again, a crack team of songwriters and producers – including Ian ‘New Rules’ Kirkpatrick, Finneas ‘Brother of Billie Eilish’ O’Connell, and Revival masterminds Mattman & Robin – never let the airy, faintly tropical soundscapes overpower Selena’s pipes. There are even moments that appear to make light of their muse’s limited range, such as when shimmery glitchfest ‘Look At Her Now’ preps you for an emphatic chorus… only to drop a laughably basic ‘uhm-uhm-uhm’ refrain. It’s pop trolling at its catchiest. 

When you’re as famous as Selena Gomez, ‘pleasant’ is all your music needs to be in order to gain traction. From echoey ballads (‘Lose You to Love Me’) and lavender-scented midtempos (‘Vulnerable’), right down to the occasional syncopated dance beat (‘Dance Again’, ‘Let Me Get Me’), Rare is blandly pleasant in its execution. ‘Kinda Crazy’ takes the piss with nauseating crazy/baby/shady/lately rhymes, but for the most part, no song on Rare has the audacity to be offensive. That may change come the day Selena must wheeze them out in a live setting.

[Movies] Spring Breakers (review)

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Director: Harmony Korine // Starring: Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, James Franco.

Review: The motive behind one’s participation in a film like Spring Breakers is admirably clear. Those who brave Harmony Korine’s neon-soaked oddity are invited to watch in awe as Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens dismantle their squeaky-clean public personas, a tried-and-tested career move that heralds a rebirth-of-sorts for the Disney starlets, reinforcing their relevancy and signalling a more mature approach to their image and output. It is no coincidence that Hudgens’ raucous new single “$$$ex” dropped in the wake of the film’s US premiere, or that Korine has cited the rise and fall of pop icon Britney Spears as a major influence on the films emotional trajectory in several promotional interviews. It is these assured correlations between the ambitions of both cast and director that elevates Spring Breakers from the depths of depraved exploitation that so many critics have been so eager to bury it in. For better or for worse, this is a film that wears it opportunism on its sleeve.

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