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Selena Gomez, ‘Stars Dance’ – Album Review

Selena Gomez Stars Dance
Hollywood Records

Selena Gomez‘s new album ‘Stars Dance’ diverges from form a little. Meaning, it’s not what we’ve come to expect from the kid-friendly, former Disney star.

Just like she took a big chance with her role as a sorta baddie in ‘Spring Breakers,’ she made some calculated risks with ‘Stars Dance,’ an EDM-lite, baby dubstep record.

The straight ahead, saccharine pop of her last album ‘When the Sun Goes Down’ has been replaced by more beats, more breathiness and some darker tones. Oh, and her backing band The Scene? They’re gone too. There is no need for organic instrumentation when Gomez has fully immersed herself in a low-calorie, but just as tasty, version of EDM.

Her album, which is still sanitized and danceable without being edgy, is a gateway, allowing her younger fanbase to learn about synthy music.

1. ‘Birthday’
The album opens with Sel partying like it’s her birthday. It’s a spunky, slightly hard, handclap-fueled song that reminds us of Fergie‘s solo hit ‘London Bridge’ with the exaggerated and bratty vocal delivery. It’s also Sel doing her best impression of Kesha, but she’s not willing to get as down and as dirty as Miss Sebert, save for some softcore, orgasmic moans sprinkled throughout. ‘Birthday’ is much more playful and a bit more cheerleaderish, with marching band beats. [WATCH THE VIDEO]

2. ‘Slow Down’
The second single from the album is more familiar territory for Gomez diehards. It’s a hybrid of lite EDM and Latin dance music, with synths brought forward in the mix and wrapping around Sel’s voice. There are also tropical, Latin tones, loads of beats and percussion woven through the labyrinth of sound. This banger sounds like something you’d find on a Jennifer Lopez album, given its Latina heat. But Gomez does a terrific job of infusing the song with her sultry voice.

3. ‘Stars Dance’
The title track is a mix of lite EDM and pop with a slower, steadier and synthy beat. Gomez’s voice adopts a celestial tone here. When she sings, “I can make the stars dance,” you tend to believe her. Her vocals are in full emulation of her idol Britney Spears. [WATCH THE VIDEO]

4. ‘Like a Champion’
This mid-to- uptempo track also reminds us of something we’d hear on a J. Lo record, thanks to the Latin percussion. She delivers the chorus “Walk like a champion / Talk like a champion” in a reggae, Rastafarian fashion. But surprisingly, it’s not as forced as it might sound on paper, nor is it Sel’s imitation of Rihanna.

5. ‘Come & Get It’
The first single, which also marked Gomez’s first radio No. 1, is drenched in world music tunes and exotic instrumentation, the perfect accompaniment for her lyrical request to come and get her love when you’re ready. [WATCH THE VIDEO]

6. ‘Forget Forever’
It’s a dancey track, but still lite and accessible. It’s mall EDM — that is, it might get some club play here and there, but it won’t score her an invite to play the Ultra Music Festival or the Electric Daisy Carnival. She won’t team up with Deadmau5, but she might have David Guetta looking to employ her for a track! For the most part, the song is fortified enough for it to blare out of clothing retailers and at restaurants. The way that Sel declares “Our love was made to rule the world,” makes this one of the more standout tracks on the record. The breakdown is pretty potent, too.

7. ‘Save the Day’
This track is another dance number with with beats that sound like a tattoo drill and more effects slathered over her voice. Sel’s not a belter like, say, Demi Lovato, but she is capable enough to have a distinct voice amidst all the programming and MAC Book Pro-created sounds.

8. ‘B.E.A.T.’
Bring da ‘B.E.A.T.’ back. Whoa. Selena raps? Uh, yeah, she does. Gomez has always been open about her love of Brit Brit, and she gets breathy and sex kittenish in her baby-voiced vocal delivery. She raps in the intro and in the verses, but it doesn’t even sound like her. This is a house-lite track that has a bit of an urban energy. It’ll make you wonder if this song penned by or for Dev, since it sure sounds like it. Gomez really steps out of the box on this tune.

9. ‘Write Your Name’
It’s a mellow and romantic track, erected on a lazy beat and driven by some keys. It’s not one of the most memorable songs on ‘Stars Dance,’ and it doesn’t write its name in your brain.

10. ‘Undercover’
‘Undercover’ sounds like more classic, teen pop Selena, with effects on her vocals. The percussion propels it forward and it sounds like something that could have lived on her previous effort.

11. ‘Love Will Remember’
It’s not lost on us that the Justin Bieber-inspired track closes out the record. It starts out like a ballad, but it escalates into wistful dance track. This is a song that Beliebers and Gomez’s legion of fans will relate to while navigating their broken hearts. It’s a bit melancholy, lyrically speaking, but with a backbeat. Selena’s pain over the split takes musical form in this song.

12. ‘Nobody Does It Like You’ [Bonus Track]
Gomez wants to be a bad girl and says so in this song! She pays lyrical homage to “the bad boy fairytale” who is a “rebel with a halo.” She even references “swagger,” which is The Biebs’ stock in trade, so maybe this banger has something to do with him.

13. ‘Music Feels Better’ [Bonus Track]
Sel sidesteps EDM on this bouncy, poppy, sun-splashed track. Yes, it’s programmed, but it’s not as obvious as the rest of the tracks on the album. With this song and the rest of ‘Stars Dance,’ Gomez has reinvented herself as a pop star who does dance music, leaving behind her Disney-branded teen pop past.

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