Way back in 1962, teen pop star Neil Sedaka warned the world that with some loves, "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do." Nowadays, many a teenybopper (Britney, Lindsay, Miley—to name but a few) has made it clear that growing up is even harder.
With the release of Stars Dance, young Selena Gomez gives us a peek at both areas of her life.
Since we last heard from her, the pretty Disney princess-turned-recording-star-turned-movie-actress has gone through a very public relationship and breakup with fellow teen idol Justin Bieber. And she was part of an ensemble of young actresses in a really hard-R, party-so-hard-you-lose-most-of-your-clothes movie (Spring Breakers).
So what does that kind of craziness mean for her music?
Some of Selena's new tunes talk of the magical feelings of love, the kind of emotions that can make the "Stars Dance." But she goes further, briefly representing the life-long commitment of real love in lyrics such as "Gon' love you for life, I ain't leaving your side" ("Come & Get It") and "Written in gold, a permanent mark/Love engraved, it's what we are" ("Write Your Name").
Even after a breakup, the singer has a few good things to say. On "Love Will Remember" she laments all the lost plans and "tacks left on the maps" because of their failed love, but she still thinks that the positives of their relationship will shine through ("Somewhere in forever we'll dance again").
On the other hand, if the It proffered on "Come & Get It" is to be considered from a more seductive perspective, then we've got sexual contexts to deal with. And "Stars Dance" pushes fans that direction too, as Selena coos, "Let me take you to places you've never been tonight."
The dance-the-night-away club scene comes into play on songs such as "B.E.A.T." and the strut-your-stuff tune "Like a Champion." The latter instructs, "It's in the way you hold yourself/He gotta know you're something else/And show him that you've never felt so sexy, sexy, sexy." "Slow Down" exploits dance floor innuendo to tell a partner, "I just wanna feel your body right next to mine all night long/ … You know I'm good with mouth-to-mouth resuscitation."
After the dancing? "Save the Day" suggests that when the night slips away they can still keep the feelings going by "[putting] your lips on mine/In the burning sunlight/I can't believe my body is still moving." "Undercover" demands that they find a place alone in the dark where they can "pull the shades down until tomorrow/And make sure that nobody follows/You don't need no other lover/We can keep it undercover."
That steamy desire even threads its way through the album opener, a Toni Basil-sounding bouncer called "Birthday." It features purring moans, allusions to tipsy dancing ("falling into you, falling into me") and "party on" shout-outs.
And those breakup niceties you read about earlier? Well, "Forget Forever" takes the lower road with a little this-is-your-fault finger-pointing ("You came and broke the perfect girl") and an admonition to the ex to "Forget you ever knew my name."
On this, her first album without her backup group The Scene, Selena Gomez said she wanted to experiment with a "more mature" sound. CNN.com reported that she "drew inspiration from her favorite star, Britney Spears." And while I'm not sure how that qualifies as "mature," you can definitely hear a Spears influence in the pop mix, along with some Rihanna-esque shadings and quite a few beat-heavy synth and drum blends.
Her "Jelena" fan base won't find much specific dirt dished in between those beats. But the lyrics aren't nearly so vague when it comes to the sensual side of things. Plugged In music critic Adam Holz mentioned in his "Come & Get It" track review that it "obviously doesn't go nearly as far as her recent starring turn in the R-rated film Spring Breakers did." But as all the tunes play out on this album, you see (hear) lots of clues related to how the now 21-year-old is much more comfortable than she used to be with party-hearty drinking and the heavy breathing aspects of her wild-child side.