Selena Gomez’s ‘Stars Dance’: Album Review

Sam Lansky | July 23, 2013 5:30 am

Out of the pop princesses to ascend to stardom from the Disney universe, Selena Gomez is by far the most enigmatic: She doesn’t have Miley Cyrus‘ wild streak nor Demi Lovato‘s transparency. Technically, too, she is not the most skilled, but one thing is certain — she knows her way around a big pop tune. You don’t need to know her to know that “Love You Like A Love Song” is fantastic, but it’s easy to want to. Nobody manages to walk the line between being so impersonal and so likable at once.

As an artist, though, she’s always had an unexpected tendency toward experimentation — “Middle of Nowhere,” off When The Sun Goes Down, sounds like Ladytron, and “Whiplash” could have come from Richard X‘s back catalogue. That remains true on her new album Stars Dance, out , which zips from appropriating one genre (Bhangra!) to another (dancehall!) while maintaining a consistent pop throughline.

The stomping and clapping beat of opening track “Birthday” borders on Diwali, while the faux island swagger of “Like A Champion” is absurdly charming. “Slow Down,” produced by The Cataracs, was a smart choice for a next single, although “Save The Day” covers much of the same ground, big dance banger-wise (not that you can have too many of those), differentiated by its squelchy, stuttering electro chorus; by the same token, by the time “Undercover” rolls around, it’s begun to wear a little thin. Even if that song has the coolest moment on here — the “All to myself” pre-chorus vocal is genius — all those similar dance beats have started to feel a little dreary, a little monotonous.

There are still plenty of sharp moments. The title track is a brilliant swirling nugget and “B.E.A.T.” is appealingly weird and slight, but “Come & Get It,” with its hypnotic rhythm and nonsensical hook, begins to feel like the best thing here, and probably is. Mercifully, “Love Will Remember” in its album version is spared the Justin Bieber voicemail opening that I found so stomach-turning in demo form, which makes the song probably her most heartrending since “Who Says.”

It doesn’t feel like an artistic statement; it doesn’t resemble any kind of cohesive whole; it doesn’t matter. Her fans will be satisfied. The songs will continue to demolish the dance charts, in all likelihood. Everybody wins.

The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: I loved “Rule The World” when it leaked earlier this year, and in its finished form, now titled “Forget Forever,” the song is still a cut above the rest: Pounding house-lite and a chorus that soars melodically makes it a solid next single candidate.

Pops Like: A lot of other Selena Gomez albums, frankly, meaning it’s still quite good.

Full Disclosure: I’ve listened to, and enjoyed, all of Selena Gomez’s albums, and I still don’t feel like I know her at all. That was enough to buoy my interest through Stars Dance, but she might need to bump up the interest on the next one.

Rating: 3/5

Sam Lansky