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I’m of that strange inter-generation of people who never really got Selena Gomez the first time around; slightly too old for Disney stars, more focused on Nickelodeon. My first non-peripheral engagement with Gomez, therefore, was in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, a definitive step in a career being taken more seriously, and a precursor to Revival, her second solo album release.
From the get-go, Revival establishes a clear tone of sonic minimalism. The textures are smooth, electronic, and clean. It’s all very 2015, a bildungsroman for Gomez, and a clear message of growing up. ‘Revival’, the album’s opener, couldn’t be more of a statement; Gomez has lived a past life, that of a sugary pop sensation, a role model for tween girls, halted, ended, and revived into that of an artist. All tracks (but one) name her as songwriter, and the influence of featured artists such as Charlie XCX and A$AP Rocky is welcome.
The first half of Revival is track after track of slick pop house. ‘Kill Em With Kindness’ and ‘Hands To Myself’ stand out, as well as the gorgeous ‘Good For You’. It has been noted that Gomez doesn’t have the strongest voice, and compared to her fellow ex-Disney posse this might be true, but that doesn’t transfer to a mere ‘good effort’ by the singer. Her half-whispered delivery on ‘Hands To Myself’ juxtaposed with quite a strong control of the lower register in the bridge section is exactly the sound Gomez should have been going for all along.
‘Same Old Love’, co-written by Charlie XCX, is another highlight, dipping out of EDM territory for a moment, a simple chord progression on piano driving the melody and rhythm on the verse, allowing once more for Gomez’s low register to shine through. XCX’s stamp on the track is unmissable, and one can’t help but think that this is what ‘Fancy’ featuring Iggy Azalea could have been.
Revival isn’t perfect, but those tracks that fail to live up to the best (‘Me & the Rhythm’, ‘Rise’, and that unfortunate [email protected] Rocky interruption in the otherwise perfectly lovely ‘Good For You’) only fail in comparison to some really fantastic pop / EDM / dance tracks. It’s an album for all Gomez fans; those who have loved her since her Disney days are growing up now, and those on the periphery of her career are taking notice. Anyone sceptical of her legitimacy should listen to Revival, an ultimately confident and unapologetic step in the direction of a true artist and songwriter. Selena, you did good girl.