Selena Gomez’s first solo studio album (well, technically – that Selena Gomez & “the Scene” thing was really more of a gimmick) “Stars Dance” is a surprisingly diverse, totally enjoyable dance pop album. The production is fresh, the hooks are tight, and Selena’s voice is…well, passable.
The one major sticking point I have with the album, besides the occasionally questionable writing (there are some pretty hilarious lines peppered throughout), is that Selena doesn’t really bring anything special to the music. I know that sounds harsh, but hear me out. Does Selena sing with conviction? With passion? Is her voice instantly recognizable? Does she elevate any of these songs? No, no, no, and not really. Selena pretty much showed up and did a decent job singing the lyrics that were put in front of her. That’s not to say she’s the first pop star guilty of phoning it in, but it does affect the overall impact of some of these songs. For example, the demo for “Save the Day,” sung by singer-songwriter Livvi Franc, had this fantastic energy and sense of urgency that is completely missing from Selena’s final version. Elsewhere on songs like the derivative “B.E.A.T.,” Selena doesn’t sound fully committed, resulting in some seriously awkward and definitely misguided rapping.
But despite Selena’s vocal shortcomings, there’s definitely some good music on “Stars Dance.” The title track is a trippy, dubstep influenced mid-tempo that finds Selena singing about literally moving heaven and earth in order to impress her lover. “Write Your Name” is a sultry electronic banger that would’ve sounded at home on Rihanna’s “Talk that Talk” album. “Undercover” is a fun, hook-heavy track about a secret love affair (and should seriously be considered for a single). And bonus track “Music Feels Better” is a delightful bubblegum pop explosion (I love bubblegum pop explosions). If Selena continues to make music (she’s taking a break to focus on her acting career…), hopefully she will learn what it really means to emote, even when you’re not always the one writing the songs.
“Stars Dance” is currently streaming for free on iTunes. The album is available for purchase everywhere on 7/23.
Must download: “Stars Dance,” “Save the Day,” “Write Your Name,” “Undercover,” “Music Feels Better,” “Birthday,” “Like a Champion,” “Come & Get It”
Must miss: “Love Will Remember,” “B.E.A.T.,” “Nobody Does It Like You”