Selena Gomez

(Lisa Bjorheim/ Creative Commons)

Selena Gomez mixes pop heartbreak with electronic music in her newest album “Rare.” Her style has transformed from sappy love songs to layered, well-produced music with a  reduced number of instruments that make for an easy listen. 

“Rare,” her third studio album released Jan. 10, exemplifies the artist’s growth in production and lyricism. With a personal life constantly scrutinized by tabloids, the artist hones in on her personal experiences with this work. 

Gomez has gone five years since her last album when compared to her most recent work — and the two pieces sound like entirely different artists. In the past, Gomez has overcomplicated her music by adding unnecessary runs and cluttering the sound with too many instruments or drawing out her vocals in a way that felt forced. Now, Gomez addresses bigger issues in her life with her signature catchy melodies. Her past songs range from covers to electronic dance beats coupled with sparse vocals. Now, Gomez has embraced an opportunity to grow out of her former ways. 

A reflection of Gomez’s newfound simplicity comes in the song “Crowded Room (feat. 6lack).” The beat has a polished raw simplicity; there are only three sounds heard at once: the piano, rhythmic handclaps and Gomez’s voice. Her lyrics are straightforward yet tell a story of being so into someone that that’s all they can pay attention to. “It started polite, out on this ice / ‘Till you came over to break it / I threw you a line and you were mine.” While more instruments are added as the song progresses, it’s a clean shift from her past improvised runs and overproduced sound. 6lack contributes to the candor with his rap influence, smoothly prioritizing the track’s raw beats. 

A song that complements the newfound clarity in her music with her evolved lyrics is the song “Vulnerable.” The staccato singing of Gomez mixed with a Daft Punk-esque rhythm adds a new level to Gomez’s artistry. “If I give you every piece of me, I know that you could drop it.” The steady drumbeat complements breathy vocal delivery with tonal layers that are an advancement from her norm, possibly a product of the 18 different credited producers.

“Rare,” the title track, is catchy and empowering trying to remind people to hold themselves to a positive standard, Gomez also said it was her favorite song off the album. “Dance Again,” creates some dissonance in the album through the usage of EDM with a repetitive chorus, robo-filter on the vocals and minimal verses over a heavy bass build-up. Given the amount of collaborations, the album’s thematic sound lacks an obvious direction.  

Gomez’s empowering lyrics shine in the upbeat dance track “Look At Her Now.” Gomez focuses on a potential past relationship that torments the singer yet allowed her to come out as a stronger person. “It was her first real lover / His too ‘til he had another / Oh, God, when she found out / Trust levels went way down.” The song is repetitive, though, and hook’s vocals are a bit too familiar in mainstream pop music to make this stand out. While this song was a single for this album, it adds little more than redundancy. Its elementary musicality make it a thoughtless, carefree listen.

“Rare” creates positivity, modernity and directness when dealing with heavy subjects such as loss of love and growing as an individual. It shows that she is trying to grow as an artist, even as she fights to stay relevant. She is ready to take on the new decade caring for herself with a smile on her face.