Selena Gomez released her debut solo album Stars Dance in 2013 after parting ways with her band The Scene. That set launched the massive hit Come & Get It but didn’t really deliver any worthy follow-ups. The album was a mish-mash of current chart sounds with Gomez’s identity getting completely lost in the mix. In 2014 she released The Heart Wants What It Wants, arguably her best and most mature single to date, as the lead track from her hits collection For You. That track marked a change in direction and a desire to carve out a unique path rather than following the pop pedigree.
With the release of Revival, Gomez is finally showing us who she is as an artist. Lead single Good For You was a sexy understated gem featuring a rap by A$AP Rocky and it caught most of Gomez’s fans off guard. The song was a million miles away from the cutesy pop and formulaic chart-friendly fodder the singer had released to that point. Prior to the release of Revival, Gomez also unveiled her Charli XCX penned single Same Old Love that sees her swearing while declaring that she’s over the tedium of heartbreaking love.
Based on those two singles our hopes for Revival were pretty high and thankfully Gomez has delivered the goods. Yes there are chart-friendly moments on the record and yes the International Deluxe version suffers from a bit too much filler but for the most part Revival is the best record Gomez has released to date. From the chill-out beats of title track Revival through to the emotive Perfect, Gomez uses her voice in new and inventive ways playing to her strengths rather than trying to compete with anyone else.
For the first time on a Selena Gomez record there’s real substance behind the polished production and big name collaborators. The electro-vibe whistle-filled Kill Em With Kindness is a moment of pop perfection, Hands To Myself continues the understated feel of Good For You, and Sober allows Gomez to deliver one of her best vocals on the record over chunky beats and a shimmering melody.
Elsewhere on the album it’s refreshing to hear Gomez really singing on the piano ballad Camouflage. The song finds her reflecting on her desire to say what she wants and to grow but feeling restricted. It’s a fitting song for an album that finally marks the arrival of Gomez as a proper popstar with a real chance at commercial longevity. Another moment on the record worth noting is the beautiful Nobody that sees Gomez exploring the upper reaches of her vocal range.
Even the album’s weaker moments like the throwaway Body Heat are still infectious and you’ll struggle to get them out of your head. The similar party feel of Me & My Girls sounds like a song Britney might have recorded but Gomez manages to turn a rather average song into a pleasant album track.
Revival is a direction that suits Gomez to the ground and it’s the album we’ve been waiting for since she first dipped her toes into the murky waters of the music industry. She’s not the best singer there is but when she uses her voice in the right way and it’s paired with the right material she sounds fantastic. Revival is a mature, enjoyable and hook-laden record that is aiming for longevity rather than a couple of flash in the pan hits. We’re liking this new and improved Selena Gomez and hope her musical journey continues to build on this direction.