Monday, October 12, 2015

Revival | Selena Gomez

A new year, a new record label, a new Selena Gomez.

"I dive into the future, but I'm blinded by the sun / I'm reborn in every moment, so who knows what I'll become," says 23 year old singer and actress in the opening seconds of her second solo studio album, Revival. It's a far stretch from the fragile, tear-drenched monologue featured in the video for last year's "The Heart Wants What It Wants," the sole single from her rushed greatest hits compilation, but the past eleven months required plenty of reflection on her part. After detachment from Justin Bieber, departure the Walt Disney-owned Hollywood Records, and diagnosis of lupus, Gomez's life has been changed remarkably since 2013's Stars Dance - and it shows through the music.

Confidence is the newest shade of sexy. While former Disney pal Demi Lovato has been even more up front with the subject (even naming her own upcoming album Confident), Gomez has made her own statements with a nude album cover and multiple tracks on the album. Lead single "Good For You" oozes with sultry radiance as her paper-thin vocals float over waves of bass vibrations: "Let me show you how proud I am to be yours / Leave this dress a mess on the floor / And still look good for you, good for you." This vocal delivery holds the tone for most of the record; it gives her voice some personality. Prior to this record, she carried her voice with a pinched, youthful tone. Now, we hear that voice give off a (very welcomed) warmer, natural inflection.

Her music has taken a new form; while still very pop, layers of the dense soundscapes of Stars Dance have been peeled away. The songs here - spare "Me & The Rhythm" and "Hands to Myself" - implement relatively subtle climaxes, relying on Gomez's vocals to brunt most of the workload. Even "Kill Em With Kindness," with its trend-chasing whistle chorus, and "Survivors," a sleek dance track, are relatively sparse when compared to past work. Gomez's vocals and the wonky piano line of the Charli XCX-assisted "Same Old Love" help keep the song alive despite the lack of an attention-demanding chorus, and that voice proves stronger than ever expected on the piano ballad "Camouflage."

Revival is a strong marketing ploy on Gomez's current state of affairs; it comes full circle, from the introductory number "Revival" ("More than just survival / This is my revival") to the hopeful glimmers of closing track "Rise" ("Yes, I know there are those who will want to bring you down / But you can rise with your mind and make your higher power proud"), to concrete Gomez's personal transformation. This confidence translates decently through song, but more so through her new found vocal confidence than through the album's transparent lyrics and fluid production. While not the best pop album to hit the market this year, it's an intimate affair that marks a bright new chapter in Gomez's story.

Revival is available now under Interscope Records. An exclusive deluxe pressing can be found at Target department stores.

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