Since the release of her full-length album Revival in 2015 and a messy public breakup from Justin Bieber in 2018, it was uncertain how Selena Gomez would come back onto the music scene (yes, that was a reference to her old band).
Gomez released singles “Bad Liar” and “Back to You” between the release of Revival and Rare along with collaborations “It Ain’t Me” and “Wolves” which appear on the deluxe version of Rare. It created a narrative where Gomez defined herself by her romantic relationships. With the first single off of Rare called “Lose You To Love Me,” Gomez takes her love life back into her own hands and focuses on self-growth. Although it is the only ballad on the album, “Lose You To Love Me” sets up the theme of the album nicely, reminding listeners that when you deal with hardships, you will come out stronger on the other side.
“Lose You To Love Me” is the strongest song lyrically on the album and is well produced through its layered strings and strategic crescendos. Some of the tracks on Rare can feel heavy, but the lead single feels intentional with its different elements.
It seems odd to me that the one ballad appears so early on the album at track four, but it breaks up the second single “Look At Her Now” and “Ring,” both songs that I didn’t gravitate towards. “Ring” sounds very similar to the song “Havana” by Camilla Cabello, a pattern seen throughout the album as Gomez bounces around sounding like different players in the pop game. “Dance Again” and “Fun” sound like they could’ve been on a Carly Rae Jepsen album.
With that said, I do think “Fun” is, well, fun. Toward the end of the album consecutively “Kinda Crazy,” “Fun” and “Cut You Off” is a strong set of songs, all with nice driving rhythms. They have consistent beats to nod your head along to and catchy choruses. “Kinda Crazy” uses some horn sounds which helps it stand out from many of the other songs.
Another strong use of instruments is in the title track “Rare.” In general, the guitars (mostly the bass) on the album add a nice groove – “Rare” is no exception. The bongos pair well with the bassline. The song’s message about self-worth should resonate with Gomez’s fans who have seen her grow and overcome challenges in recent years. Many of these fans have transitioned from preteens during Gomez’s Disney days to young adults who are now probably experiencing similar questions of self-worth and how to define oneself.
Six tracks in, another solid pair of songs is “Vulnerable” and “People You Know.” The vocal editing on the chorus of “People You Know” is a bit off-putting, but the message of the song makes that bearable for me. The idea of people changing in relationships is often forgotten in songs that are trying to portray the idyllic fairy tale of being in a relationship.
“Vulnerable” didn’t stand out to me at first, but Gomez’s vulnerability with her hardships is endearing and especially important in an age of such transparency between artist and listener because of social media. Gomez has been open about her physical and mental health struggles. In 2013, Gomez was diagnosed with Lupus and received a kidney transplant in 2017. Gomez also has been consistently honest about her struggles with mental health and anxiety. On The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Gomez said she hoped “Vulnerable” could be a voice for people also dealing with hardships, whether it be health-wise or with relationships.
Gomez has shown that since releasing Revival she hasn’t been messing around. The album reflects how Gomez has grown through heartbreak, but the fallbacks of pop music restrict the album’s full potential and sometimes limit the emotional impact (think autotune). I do think Gomez achieves her goal of a confessional album reflecting on a relationship gone bad and how to move forward. Rare is a solid album overall and shows great maturity. The album grows on me with each listen and I’m excited to see how it changes the trajectory of her career.
Favorite tracks: “Lose You To Love Me,” “Rare,” “Kinda Crazy,” “Fun”
Least favorite tracks: “Look At Her Now,” “Let Me Get Me”
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