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Kristin Smith

Album Review

Nearly five years have passed since Selena Gomez’s last album, Revival. But now she’s back with her third studio effort, Rare.

A combination of pop, techno and funk, Rare channels multiple influences and finds Gomez putting her best foot forward both sonically and lyrically. This album feels like her most mature to date.

And it makes sense. Over the past few years, Gomez has fought against an autoimmune disease, received a kidney transplant and, of course, continued to endure the intense public scrutiny of her love life that’s marked most of her career.

So it seems fitting that this album often sounds something like a diary entry and finds its foundation in matters of the heart … as well as a few intimate details that are better left behind closed doors.

Pro-Social Content

Many of Selena’s songs declare that she has moved on from an unhealthy relationship and is actively seeking healing and wholeness. “Dance Again” is an upbeat tune that leaves the past behind and focuses on the future. She admits she “dodged a bullet” by breaking things off with a boyfriend in “Look at Her Now.” And in “Lose You to Love Me,” she knows that the end of a relationship has made her stronger and healthier. That song also relates how she feels that she’s been taken for granted: “You tore me down and now it’s showing/In two months you replaced us/Like it was easy/Made me think I deserved it.”

On the title track, Selena lets future suitors know she’s found her value and self-worth, that she’s not willing to settle for less (“I don’t have it all/I’m not claiming to/But I know that I’m special, yeah/And I’ll bet there’s somebody else out there/to tell me I’m rare, to make me feel rare”). Similarly, Selena admits that she’ll still work to stay open and honest in future relationships on “Vulnerable.”

In “Let Me Get Me,” Selena works on controlling her thoughts and forsaking destructive patterns (“No self-sabotage, no letting my thoughts run/Me and the spiral are done/Burn this camouflage I’ve been wearing for months/Tryna let a little happy in for once”). Similar thoughts are heard on “A Sweeter Place.”

On “Kinda Crazy” the 27-year-old singer draws the line in an unhealthy relationship, declaring that she’s no longer willing to entertain toxicity. And more of the same can be found on “Cut You Off.”

Objectionable Content

Selena’s not been treated well by previous boyfriends, and she lays some of her former lovers’ mistakes out on the table. On “Look at Her Now,” we hear about an ex who took up other “lovers” while he was still with Gomez.

“Ring” brags about Selena’s sense of power when it comes to getting men to do what she wants: “Wrapped ‘round my finger like a ring/They just like puppets on a string/I put it down, they call me up/They doing way too much.”

On “Fun,” Selena is looking for a casual-but-intimate relationship, the kind that enables her to use someone else to make her feel good: “Can we keep it on a first name basis?/We could overcrowd each other’s spaces/You get me higher than my medication.” Other references to sex and intimacy are heard on “Crowded Room,” “Rare,” “Vulnerable,” “People You Know” and “A Sweeter Place.”

Selena uses the s-word and confesses she’s drunk on “Cut You Off.”

Summary Advisory

In an interview with Zane Lowe on Beats 1, Selena made it quite clear that the inspiration for her album came from her breakup with Justin Bieber, as well as the many obstacles she had to overcome mentally, emotionally and physically.

She confessed, “I had to get the most toxic thing out of my life first.” From there, she says she was able to move on to learn more about herself and to discover deeper healing—some of which came from her two-year hiatus from social media. That, she said, was a season in which she worked to get rid of her “former self.”

That personal growth shows in many ways on Rare. Selena is notably happier, more confident and clear with what she expects from life and future relationships. She’s also open and honest in a refreshing way that leaves bitterness by the wayside.

Still, Rare isn’t squeaky clean, either. Her rehashing of former relational details is both messy and intimate. And there are plenty of references to premarital sex and cohabitation, as well as inebriation and the use of one strong profanity.

All in all, Rare moves forward in a (mostly) positive direction. But it has some flaws, too.

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Kristin Smith

Kristin Smith joined the Plugged In team in 2017. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. She and her husband, Eddy, love raising their children Judah and Selah. Kristin also has a deep affection for coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan).