Music Mondays: A Track-By-Track Review of Selena Gomez's New Album, Revival

Selena Gomez is making a statement with her first album created without the help of Mickey Mouse. Now to be clear, I wouldn’t exactly categorize myself as a “Selenator.” Sure, I think she’s gorgeous and a good person, and Who Says was definitely my anthem of 10th grade. However, I’ve never seen her in concert or put much effort into listening to her music.

That being said, I was strangely surprised upon hearing Revival, Gomez’s first album partnered with Interscope and Polydor Records instead of the usual Hollywood Records (owned by Disney). Where Miley Cyrus transformed into a new creature with her breakaway Bangerz, Gomez matures her sound while still remaining true to who she is. Revival, which was released Oct. 9, listens more like 14 individual singles than a distinct, flowing record — each song has the potential to get radio play. Therefore, I put together a track-by-track review of the album that may give you a glimpse into what the singer’s bringing to the table if you haven’t gotten the chance to listen yet yourself.

1. "Revival": 4/5 starsNothing does an album better than a bit of spoken word in the opening track — just ask Fall Out Boy. But with all that’s been said in the news about this ex-Disney starlet, the title track is the perfect way to start this album off. Lyrics like “I’ve been under self-restoration, I’m becoming my own salvation,” and “What shattered through me like a rifle was a revival,” dive into the human vs. self conflict that has seemed to plague Gomez for the past few years. It’s a simplistic pop/R&B tune that’s reminiscent of — if I dare say — Justin Bieber’s Journals.

2. "Kill Em With Kindness": 2/5 starsGomez stole the whistler from Flo Rida’s 2012 hit to use on her nice-girl anthem, "Kill Em With Kindness." The title phrase is sung 13 times throughout the song, so if you didn’t know how to kill someone before, Gomez wants to make sure kindness is part of your arsenal. While the message means well, it seems a little disingenuous when sung to EDM. (Also, where is the apostrophe in the title? One grammar error for you, Ms. Gomez.)

3. "Hands To Myself": 4/5 stars In other album tunes (see "Good For You") Gomez’s soft-spoken delivery becomes irksome and, to be honest, makes me an uncomfortable listener.  But her whisper-singing in this track oddly works. The beat doesn’t kick in until about a minute in, yet the staccato line delivery draws the listener into every word Gomez utters. This song is too fun for its own good, and would’ve been my pick for her next single but, unfortunately, artists aren’t smart enough to have me work on their albums.

4. "Same Old Love": 3/5 starsI like this song because it has a ‘20s vibe à la Baz Luhrmann — wouldn’t it have been great party music for Tobey MaGuire’s drunken rave in The Great Gatsby? Apparently Same Old Love, co-written by Charli XCX, was released as the album’s second single at the beginning of September — which is news to me, because all I hear about on the radio is her 14 carats. To go along with my Gatsby interpretation, she coincidentally looks like polished ‘20s perfection in the music video. (Where can I get that amazing white sweater/poncho/blanket? My closet desperately needs it.)

5. "Sober": 5/5 starsGomez laments in this track about how a significant other doesn’t know how to love unless alcohol is involved. (Perhaps she’s alluding to a certain someone we all know?) On the other hand, I don’t know how someone couldn’t love this song, intoxicated or abstained. With a beautiful musical arrangement and stunningly honest lyrics, "Sober" is certainly one of the strongest tracks on the album.

6. "Good For You" (ft. A$AP Rocky): 1/5 starsGomez may be “doin’ it up like Midas” with the amount of airtime this song receives, but that doesn’t make me dislike it any less. Failing to capture what "Hands To Myself" pulls off so well, "Good For You" stays at the same level for the entire three and a half minutes. Songs should oscillate like a sound wave, with several high and low points, but "Good For You" stays consistent along its x-axis. Nevertheless, she looks absolutely amazing in the music video, though her whisper singing is still awkward to watch.

7. "Camouflage": 3/5 starsAs the piano ballad of the album, "Camouflage" takes a slow, self-aware approach to describing the end of a relationship. Gomez admits that while the other side was the first to throw in the towel, she was the one who executed the heart breaking. It’s the second song on Revival, after "Same Old Love," in which the once squeaky-clean diva curses. (Stick it to the Mouse, Gomez.)

8. "Me & The Rhythm": 2/5 starsSteel drums assist Gomez in this dance-club track that was released on Oct. 2 as the album’s third single. For some reason, it reminds me of the scene in Spice World when the girls are having fun in the club before their pregnant friend’s water breaks. This song doesn’t do much for me, and I still stand by my assertion that "Hands To Myself" should’ve been the next single.

9. "Survivors": 2/5 starsAs my pick for the new theme song of The Walking Dead, this song reiterates numerous times that Gomez and her acquaintance(s) are “survivors of the wild.” Just like Rick and Carl, the singer had to be built up from a broken heart and must live with the scars she’s received. It’s not the best song and it’s not the worst song, but I wouldn’t feel guilty hitting skip on shuffle.

10. "Body Heat": 2/5 starsGomez’s Hispanic heritage comes through in salsa dance-worthy "Body Heat." (Interesting sidenote: It was actually recorded in Mexico.) However, the song seems a little forced and out of place on Revival. I would’ve been convinced J. Lo denied this track before it went to Gomez if it weren’t for the fact the 23-year-old co-wrote the song herself.

11. "Rise": 4/5 starsWhere Revival started the album literally and metaphorically, "Rise" does the same as the standard album’s closing track. This song is all about empowerment and makes the point that while there are so many things that try to bring you down, you can always find the power within you to rise above it. I can already imagine crowds at the Revival Tour chanting the chorus.

12. "Me & My Girls": 3/5 starsA combination of "Run The World (Girls)" and the "Cantina Band" theme from Star Wars, this song would be great to shoot a music video with your best girlfriends. The talk-shouting bits also vaguely remind me of Spice Up Your Life — what’s up with Gomez and the Spice Girls?  

13. "Nobody": 3/5 starsThe syncopated beats and always-loved finger snaps make this track savory for the ears. "Nobody" is one of the album’s calmer tracks with smooth, synthesized beats backing Gomez’s charming melody. It also might remind listeners of her relationship with the Bieber, much like "Camouflage."

14. "Perfect": 2/5 starsWait... a person on this earth left the Selena Gomez for someone else? Well, apparently — and shockingly — because the singer helped co-write this final bonus track about her man leaving for a more “perfect” woman. While it’s debatable if there exists such a person, "Perfect" rounds out Revival in a melancholy mood that’s on the forgettable side. Out of the three bonus tracks, this tune is my least favorite.  

I probably won’t have this album on repeat, but it says something, at least for me, that I had something positive to say about most of the songs. She didn’t have to make jarring career moves or use weird, vulgar lyrics to make a decent album. Gomez just had to be honest and be herself. But that begs the question — Who is Selena Gomez?

By simply listening to the bit of spoken word in the opening track, the star herself says that she still is finding that out: “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.”

I’m not sure what’s in her future, but after fighting Lupus, breaking away from the stigma of being “Bieber’s girlfriend” and having another No. 1 album on the horizon, there may not be much this star can’t accomplish.

 

Photo credit: www.drownedinsound.com