Selena Gomez 'Rare' album review: A celebration of self and melody

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The 'Lose You to Love Me' singer is back after five years, and she's fully in control of her vocals and message

Chris Gillett |
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It may be five years since her last album cycle, but that hasn’t dampened fans’ love for pop star Selena Gomez. Her lead single Lose You To Love Me was released in October, and amassed almost 300 million Spotify streams well before Rare, the album, was even released.

And it’s easy to see why. It’s an impressive track, with spine-tingling choir cries behind some incredibly powerful lyrics from Gomez. With lines such as, “Set fires to my forest/And you let it burn/Sang off-key in my chorus/’Cause it wasn’t yours/I saw the signs and I ignored it/Rose-coloured glasses all distorted/Set fire to my purpose/And I let it burn,” the delivery is so pointed and visceral, you can almost feel the pain she describes.

And those lyrics, and a voice that she has finally learned to use to advantage, are what give the album its strength. At its core, Rare is a set of songs relatively lacking in instruments, giving the singer free reign over her melodies, and allowing her the opportunity to pack in as many hooks as possible.

She does it well; Crowded Room, for example, loops around a basic three-chord pattern, but her flourishing, melodic R’n’B vocal phrasings stand out from the music, making it an unforgettable track.

Even the laid-back synth-pop sound of People You Know is sold entirely on her voice, with her cleverly-paced refrain, “People can go from people you know to people you don’t,” which again seems so simple, but works so well. 

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There are a couple of underwhelming spots, though. The stompy Kinda Crazy sounds kinda dated, with her scratchy tone, and a tale of suspicion of a partner’s infidelity, while Vulnerable feels like a passive attempt at a Christine and the Queens-style pop tune.

But that she’s found a new confidence, and pride in herself, is evident throughout particularly in the title track, when she says “I dont have it all/ Im not claiming to/ But I know that I’m special...I’m rare”. And that, combined with generally praiseworthy lyrics and vocals, is why Rare is bound to be a record we will want to hear often.

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