Selena Gomez is back and starting off 2020 with her new album “Rare.” Released on Jan. 10, this is her first album since “Revival” in 2015. And no, those seven different remixes of “Wolves” in 2018 do not count as an album. In closing song “A Sweeter Place,” Gomez sings, “you’ll really want to know where I’ve been all this time / so lemme tell ya.” And she does exactly that.
Gomez has been busy in her time away — from mental and physical struggles with lupus to relationships with Justin Bieber and The Weeknd. Drawing from these and other experiences over the past five years, she delivers a catchy pop album with an empowering punch. Despite her difficult past, Gomez doesn’t wallow in self-pity. Instead, she uses this album to celebrate her triumphs and re-establish herself as a solo artist.
In the smooth and groovy opening song and title track, Gomez sets the tone for the rest of the album, narrating how she’s been treated unfairly but acknowledges her own self-worth and desire to move on.
“I’m not gonna let you make me cry / Not getting enough from you / Don’t you know I’m hard to find?” Gomez sings.
While Gomez explores new styles and proves her musical growth later in the album, upbeat track “Dance Again” feels like much of her previous work. Like hit song “Hands to Myself,” this pure pop track is the almost annoying but undeniably catchy tune that seems to find its way onto nearly every pop album.
Gomez uses the emotional power of slower ballads to celebrate and support her independence with lead single “Lose You to Love Me.” In the emotional and vulnerable track, Gomez realizes a relationship wasn’t as perfect as she may have felt before.
In “Let Me Get Me,” Gomez reveals she’s struggled with “self-sabotage” and “letting [her] thoughts run,” but is determined to have a more positive relationship with herself. Later in the song, Gomez sings “Oh, my, I guess this is what it feels like to be free,” and this lyric — as well as the album as a whole — speaks to her success.
The smooth, skeletal track “Cut You Off” — with an instrumental break reminiscent of Niall Horan’s “Slow Hands” — is the epitome of the post-breakup song. “Ring” is also instrumentally simplistic, with guitar plucks that slowly build up to the last chorus.
But Gomez’s pure confidence dominates the song and demonstrates her newfound mindset as a pop artist — not to mention it’s contagious.
“Rare” can feel thematically repetitive — almost every song seems to be about Gomez getting over a previous relationship and instead finding confidence and stability in her own self-worth. However, tracks are stylistically variant enough that the album doesn’t get boring, and it’s hard to fault Gomez for spreading such a positive message.
Gomez closes the album accompanied by Kid Cudi in “A Sweeter Place,” which is a disappointing closing track for a fairly strong album. Kid Cudi contributes basically nothing, which is especially disappointing after following 12 songs celebrating Gomez’s independence. Gomez’s own vocals aren’t at their strongest in this song, and the track doesn’t wrap up the album as well as other tracks — namely “Look at Her Now” or “Let Me Get Me” — or could.
Still, “Rare” is a solid addition to Gomez’s discography and — much like her previous work — is sure to dominate radio stations in the next few weeks.
“Rare” is now available to stream on Spotify and Apple Music.