Selena Gomez’s highly anticipated new record Rare has arrived. Given the attention surrounding the first two singles Lose You To Love Me and Look At Me Now, it’s bound to be one of the year’s biggest pop records. We’re taking an initial walk through it and giving you our immediate reactions.
A slinky, guitar-driven beat rings in the new album and Gomez is immediately on form. Slipping around the beat with her trademark, quick-tongued verses she immediately reminds us that she’s not the strongest voice in pop but she uses it better than anyone. “Why don’t you recognise, I’m so rare,” she sings in the chorus following it up with, “I know that I’m special.”
Mattman & Robin who produced Lose You To Love Me are back for Dance Again but this is far from a ballad. It’s a dark dance track prominently featuring a funky bass-line that Dua Lipa would like to pinch for Future Nostalgia. The chorus is mysterious and celebrator which is a difficult juxtaposition to achieve but the verses are admittedly a forgettable on first listen.
Look At Her Now
We’ve heard this one before. It’s our preference out of the two singles she released before the album and we’re still loving it now. A weird, wonky pop song that only Gomez could make interesting.
Lose You To Love Me
Her first number one single felt like a necessary re-introduction but Gomez has never been known for her piano ballads. Hoping for less of this as we move through the album.
This song comes in with a beat that sounds like Senorita had a baby with Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know. You already know from how she comes in on this song that she’s on her bullshit. “Wrapped round my finger,” she sings like she’s centre stage at a smokey cabaret bar. Ring has the subtle charm of Bad Liar and the temptation of Fetish all in one.
Based off the title we would’ve bet money that this would be a ballad. Hallelujah, it’s not! Driven by a pulsating beat, it’s a sleek, polished pop songs that cruises at one speed for the whole time. This is probably the closest to the dance/pop collabs that she put out in between albums but it feels far more tailored to her. Her voice sounds excellent throughout the whole thing and even though the sparse hook allows you to drift she pulls you right back in.
People You Know
Troye Sivan’s go-to Alex Hope has writing and producing credits on this one and you can tell. It’s a vivid, slightly off-kilter pop song with a hook that’s instantly intoxicating. “We used to be close but people can go from people you know to people you don’t,” she sings over tribal-infused beats. Thematically, it’s one of the most biting tunes on the record.
Let Me Get Me
We’ve said it a few times already but only Gomez could make this song work. Let Me Get Me features a drunk, woozy Latin beat that feels like it’s turning your ears into liquid. Vocally, she knows exactly how much gas she needs to give it, cruising along at a gentle but effective pace. We’re not sure what the rest of the record holds but this feels like the sort of song that marks a turning point. It’s a liberating page-turner.
Crowded Room (Feat. 6lack)
Gomez has worked with A$AP Rocky and Gucci Mane in the past but this is the first time she’s really gone toe-to-toe with an R&B vocalist. At the start it’s difficult to imagine 6lack fitting in here but he sounds right at home once he steps in. Gomez’s falsetto is a welcome touch but this may be the weakest track yet.
We’re back to the guitar and pulsating bass on Kinda Crazy. It’s one of the slower songs on the album but it’s tinged with some really pleasing production, offering hints of brass. “I think you’re kinda crazy and not the good kind baby,” she sings. It’s definitely not going to garner the most attention on first listen and at this point it feels like the initial excitement of the record is slipping.
This is the only song that Julia Michaels has a co-write on apart from the singles and you can tell. Her vulnerable and playful songwriting is on display here but it’s coloured by some of the weirdest and sparsest production on the album. There are Prince-like guitars, plenty of acapella moments and some angelic harmonies. If we were to introduce this album to a Gomez doubter, we’d play them this. It’s excellent and wildly unpredictable.
Cut You Off
We weren’t expecting this album to be so guitar and bass driven but it’s definitely the sonic theme of the record. Her voice is never more present than it is on Cut You Off. It’s a headstrong statement and one that she clearly wants to resonate. “I might as well just tell you while I’m drunk, the truth is that I think I’ve had enough,” she sings in the breakup burn that we were waiting for. Those looking for Bieber headlines will find them all here.
A Sweeter Place (Feat. Kid Cudi)
The angelic hums of Kid Cudi open up this one and it immediately feels cathartic. This is definitely more in Cudi’s world than Gomez’s but she sounds brilliant over the stomping, primal beat. “Is there a place where I can hideaway,” she asks, optimistic rather than melancholic. Cudi handles the second verse with a woozy and off-kilter yet personal verse – his first in almost a year, we should add. It feels like a necessary finale to the album and left us feeling like we actually need to hear more Cudi and Gomez.
Gomez has never delivered a cohesive album in the past. Revival had the hits but Rare has the substance. From start-to-finish it feels like a proper package, housing similar soundscapes and vocal techniques. Lyrically, it doesn’t completely lift the veil on Gomez’s personal life but there are some well-placed lyrics that provide us enough to recognise where she’s at.
To be honest, we were expecting a strong start and a limp finish but apart from a two song lull towards the tail-end, this is a genuinely exciting record. It sounds fresh and extends Gomez’s lead as the purveyor of weird pop – a title she earned from Bad Liar and Fetish. She knows her strengths and she owns them here.
Favourite Songs: Rare, Fun, Look At Me Now, Let Me Get Me
Least Favourite Songs: Crowded Room, Kinda Crazy