Rare is the title of Selena Gomez’s newest album, but it’s not a word I’d use to describe anything about it.
Gomez has been a fixture in popular culture since my childhood. Yet, in all these years, I’ve never been able to identify who she was as an artist. Despite her many artistic pursuits, she’s felt more like a blank canvas for songwriters to hand over songs previously passed up by other singers. There is no specific Selena Gomez sound that has allowed her to leave her mark on the songs she picks up; all of it is uninspired, generic, H&M-dressing-room music. It’s a bit of a waste, as it is a quite unfortunate thing to watch an artistic career unfold without anything that suggests she’s interested in art. Gomez has always been content in releasing music to be a brand, not an artist and, as such, the art suffers.
There has never been any clear artistic growth with Selena Gomez as there wasn’t an artistic presence to begin with. Every release of hers comes off as lifeless and empty and, for one that was touted as being her most revealing and truthful yet, Rare is no exception.
It’s not as if the tracks on this album are particularly unpolished or awful to listen to, they’re all just weak; deeply uninspired and not fleshed out to their full potential. There are a few memorable cuts on Rare, however.
The second track in, “Dance Again”, is bouncy yet sultry. The funk-inspired edge reverberating throughout the song calls to mind pop legend Robyn, though Gomez’s attempt is forgettable in comparison; regardless, “Dance Again” makes for an enjoyable listen.
“Look At Her Now”, one of the lead singles off the album, sees a strong attempt at something more experimental than Gomez is equipped for. The chorus is a mosaic of varied noises, both vocal and instrumental, interrupting each other in an initially jarring way. While the chorus adds a unique, exciting flair to the song, the rest of it doesn’t hold up. The simplistic midtempo verses and bridge roll back in to remind the listener that this is nothing new -— just another Selena Gomez song.
The final song, “A Sweeter Place”, follows the lead of “Look At Her Now” — it does some captivating things with the production, letting the chorus bleed into another amalgamation of noise that sounds thrown together with a purpose. The four minute song breezes by quite quickly, lending itself to easy replay value. A feature from Kid Cudi is where the song finds its ultimate strength. While “A Sweeter Place” is a saccharine tune overall, it’s a bit disappointing for such a big artist to have a feature from another be a high point of their album.
In general, the production on this album is consistently a hit. Gomez does not lend anything interesting herself, but at the very least, she knows how to curate a sound that will naturally bleed into the mainstream. Rare is full of soft whispers over airy beats, generally permeated by light piano keys and synths. Even for the many songs that miss, it’s a cohesive album with a clear vibe overall.
Gomez is widely known for her trademark whisper vocals and, while songs like “Let Me Get Me” and “Cut You Off” show strength in her voice (to the point of questioning it’s even her on the track), this reigns true in Rare. What disappoints about this aspect is that there are many times in which it seems as though she is about to build up to a passionate crescendo only for her voice to falter to its permanent quiet state.
In fact, that’s a good way to describe the album altogether: there’s no triumphs, no apex, no unforgettable powerful moments. There’s barely even a build-up to any of it. It all comes out in a quiet hush.
Every song off of this album sounds like it could have been on any one of Gomez’s prior albums. Even worse yet, every song off this album sounds like it could have been on any up-and-coming artist’s album — a debut, perhaps, one where they’re still attempting to figure out a sound.
Some of the songs are catchy, yes, but there’s nothing to be found at the heart of this album. After many long years of artistry, it is disappointing to think that Rare is all Gomez can bring to the table.