Selena Gomez cemented her status as the new poster girl of dance-pop with a bubbly, high-energy performance at Staples Center in Los Angeles last night (November 6). The genius of Stars Dance is that it ruthlessly focuses on the 21-year-old’s strengths. She doesn’t have the biggest voice in pop, although it has definitely improved, but it’s hard to notice — or care — when she’s putting her all into sassy choreography, recounting cute stories and sincerely doing her very best to entertain you.
After kicking off the spectacular with a pair of old songs (what happened to The Scene?), Selena belted out two of the quirkiest cuts from her new LP. Reggae-tinged “Like A Champion” and lyrically suggestive “B.E.A.T.” showcase the Texan’s artistic development. She’s willing to experiment and expand her musically horizons — a point she underlined by incorporating Iggy Azalea‘s “Work” into the latter track. It’s an offbeat choice but hitmaker pulls it off through sheer charm.
The spooky, lilting electro of Stars Dance‘s title track and relatively straightforward dance-pop anthem “Write Your Name” were enthusiastically received as Selena pranced around the stage and runway in a blue beaded dress that split up the middle. The doll-faced diva’s vocal held up well as she focused on giving fans high-fives and waves while her talented dancers performed tight choreography around her. She got more involved with “Birthday” — introducing the song with a cute story and striking poses on a giant staircase.
A quick costume change later (her skirt got shorter), Sel was back on stage covering Katy Perry‘s mega-hit “Roar”. It’s a hard track to sing live but she gave her all and it was hard to notice any missteps with an ocean of teenage girls chanting along. Next was signature song “Love You Like A Love Song”, which began as a ballad before exploding into an uptempo extravaganza. After dancing through nine bangers, fans could finally sit down for the ballad section.
“Love Will Remember” — Selena’s moving ballad about Justin Bieber — proved there’s more to her than pretty costumes and wicked dance beats. She delivered a beautiful vocal and looked visibly torn. The song evoked a deep reaction from Selenators, who sobbed and sang along. The Spring Breakers star then covered Priscilla Ahn‘s “Dream”, which she introduced by thanking everyone for letting her live hers. The nicest girl in pop even played the harmonica, which was an unexpected touch.
Selena then gave her pep talk about being yourself and staying classy before belting out the cheesy but undeniably catchy “Who Says”. The guitars started thrashing for “Whiplash” — the Britney Spears-penned When The Sun Goes Down highlight. Speaking of Brit, the song was introduced with a few bars of “My Prerogative” as a tribute. It’s clear Sel views the pop legend as a role model. There are obvious similarities between the staging of Stars Dance and Britney’s Femme Fatale tour. And it’s a testament to Selena that her show was more enjoyable.
Time has been kind to “Naturally”, which the pop diva performed in a sexy fringed dress. She and her dancers wrestled with ropes (it’s art!) before hitting the runway and interacting with fans. It was around this time that Selena started getting a lot of help from a backing tape. “Save The Day” was clearly mimed but she stepped up her choreography game, so it seemed like a fair trade-off. “Undercover”, another album highlight that screams future hit, was a mix of live and recorded vocals. It got everyone moving and was perhaps the best staged song of the night with a clever dance routine and arresting video screens.
For the encore, Gomez returned with breakthrough top 1o hit “Come & Get It”. She tapped into the song’s middle eastern flavor with the choreography and reminded everyone why it was one of the best songs of the summer. Selena concluded her journey from Wizards of Waverly Place to a sold-out show at Staples with current hit single “Slow Down”. She beamed as glitter and streamers filled the arena, knowing she had given her absolute all.