Selena Gomez’s third album delves into heartbreak, bounce-back and learning to love yourself. A smooth transition for a singer reborn from her personal struggles with mental and physical health issues. If 2015’s Revival was the beginning of her journey to a mature post-Disney sound, then Rare is where the 27-year-old has finally completely let go of her past self.
Starting off with title-track, ‘Rare’ Selena begins unpacking her vulnerabilities smoothly before she delivers an early highlight in the form of low-key yet catchy dance track ‘Dance Again’. This upbeat, electro-pop number comes with a nicely packaged message of dancing through the pain – which comes with an extra layer of depth considering Gomez’s struggles with lupus.
Next comes the massive hit from last fall, ‘Lose You to Love Me’ which went onto become Gomez’s first Billboard No.1. This celestial, soul-searching ballad plays to Selena’s vocal strength- low, breathy and understated – highlighting an intimate, personable conversation about losing love yet finding yourself. With a similarly strong delivery comes her best performance in the form of muted ‘Vulnerable’ where her vocals shine with a confident assurance.
In contrast, auto-tuned, clubby offering, ‘Look At Her Now’ – from songwriting duo of Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter who only appear together in this album on ‘Lose You’ – reveals where she went wrong on ‘Rare’. While the sonics remain interesting, ‘Look At Her Now’ is an example of where Gomez’s wispy vocals just don’t work.
And while she swerves back into familiar territory with Latin-inflected “Let Me Get Me” and “Ring,” impressing with her sultry delivery on the latter. But trying to emulate it again on ‘Crowded Room’ ft rapper 6LACK she disappoints.
While the Bad Liar-reminiscent ‘Fun’ and the down-tempo feel of ‘Cut You Off’ keep up the mood of the 13-track album, Gomez falters with impersonal tracks such as ‘People You Know’ the trumpet-tinged ‘Kinda Crazy’, with its good-but-ordinary soundscapes and uninspired lyrics.
Despite strong beginnings, Rare seems to have lost its sheen by the time the closing track ‘ A Sweeter Place’ rolls around. Seemingly dominated by its guest Kid Cudi, the synth-influenced, autotune-heavy track could have been a memorable closer had it spent a bit more time unravelling the layers of its compelling lyrics – “Holding hands with the darkness and knowing my heart is allowed.”- loses itself to a forgettable chorus.
Rare is imperfect both lyrically and sonically, but Selena still holds it together with asserting her growth as an artist and person with brilliant moments of inspiring, intricate melodies and messages – if only she’d managed to create more of these brave, contemplative moments instead of falling back on comfortable but underwhelming sonics.
Selena Gomez’ Rare is available to purchase and stream now via Interscope Records