Since her 2013 album Stars Dance, Selena Gomez’s music career was set on the back burner as she played celebrity socialite and continued her quest to become the next movie/pop star. While 2014’s For You featured the Billboard Top 10 single “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” the rest of the album was simply a compilation of old tracks and new remixes, even reaching back to her days with backup band The Scene. But with her newest release Revival, Gomez has reestablished herself as more than a member of the Swift Squad that once had a music career—she’s back on top, and she’s earned it.
Revival opens with its title track, led by a short voiceover where Gomez claims she’s “[diving] into the future,” unsure of where it will lead her. “Who knows what I’ll become?” the singer muses, and we’re prompted to ask the same question as we move through Revival. “Kill Em With Kindness,” the album’s second track, mimics Adam Lambert’s summer banger “Ghost Town” with its eerie whistle-like hook and gritty bass. This ghost vibe is immediately followed with the album’s first feel-good dance jam—“Hands to Myself” is the sexy, bouncy track that will be played at pregames for the next few months. The breathy timbre that made her vocals on summer hit “Good for You” balance on an early-2000s R&B/Pop beat, providing a contrast that makes the track more interesting than any old dance jam about female sexuality.
The album takes a turn with “Same Old Love;” co-written by and featuring uncredited vocals from Charli XCX. The track is heavily influenced by the English “f-you” pop princess. The switch from the synth-heavy format of Revival’s earlier tracks to “Same Old Love”’s old-school piano riff is startlingly immediate. Following this complaint on modern relationships is “Sober,” one of the most (secretly) emotional tracks on the album. Clean vocal manipulations, a la Jack U, and a gritty percussion track almost mask the harrowing lyrics. “We fall for each other at the wrong time” and “you don’t know how to love me when you’re sober” hitting all too close to home for anyone suffering a recent heartbreak.
Gomez immediately bounces back from “Sober” with her Billboard Top 5 hit, “Good For You (ft. A$AP Rocky).” It’s sexy in the most innocent way, with breathy vocals and dirty lyrics such as “[let me] leave this dress a mess on the floor,” playing to the angel and devil on our shoulders, respectively. Serving as Revival’s only credited artist feature, A$AP Rocky fills the track’s bridge as deftly as he did Sam Smith’s soulful “I’m Not the Only One.” Is this perhaps his new niche?
She follows it up with the dance jam “Me & The Rhythm.” The track echoes the club music of the ’90s—Paula Abdul is certainly waiting for her comeback as Gomez’ chirpy chorus ascends the charts.
But it seems as if Gomez, and her team, still aren’t sure what the Disney-bred starlet can do best. Later in the album, she goes in on the mournful piano ballad “Camouflage;” a track that felt incredibly out of place on this primarily synthetic, new age album. Gomez claimed she would be getting personal on Revival, but this attempt to pull the listener’s heartstrings fell flat. “Survivors,” features all the production of a dance-pop hit, but lacks the necessary fire in Gomez’ vocals. It’s clear throughout the album that her style is better suited to the ephemeral, whispering tones of “Good for You” and “Hands to Myself,” but “Survivors” is the only track where Gomez pales in comparison to her production team. “Body Heat” falls flat as well—the experimental attempt to combine classic Spanish style and EDM technique is less than successful. “Rise,” Revival’s final track, suffers the same problem. Its attempted combination of reggae-sounding synth and gospel choir preaching is awkward and preachy, making it hard to appreciate.
With Revival, Selena Gomez has struck back as a musician. While the sexualized cover may draw listeners in, it is truly the music that forces them to stay. Unfortunately, her momentum coming back into the scene isn’t sustained through the entire album, and the last few tracks feel disconnected and not up to par with the excellent songs opening Revival.
Featured Image by Interscope Records