On Selena Gomez’s new album, “Stars Dance,” the goal, to quote Marty from “Spinal Tap,” is to have a good time all the time.
There’s nothing wrong at all with crafting an album of primarily upbeat tunes that celebrate nothing more than being young and in love (or out, as the case is here on a few tunes) and all that entails. But there is a problem when the whole album, her first solo set after three albums with her former group The Scene, is an exercise in cookie-cutter EDM beats and generic lyrics that tell us nothing about Gomez.
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“Stars Dance,” which has already spawned the Top 10 hit, the bhangra-influenced “Come & Get It,” opens with the electro-pop “Birthday,” a forgettable dance tune about partying on her birthday (and every day is her birthday, by the way). It’s followed by “Slow Down,” an equally silly tune about slowing the music.
Heading to the celestial dance floor, on “Stars Dance,” the title track, she aspires to something similar to Katy Perry’s “E.T.,” with some kind of space oddity that wants to be edgy and atmospheric, but is just strange. Similarly, the patois she assumes for “Like A Champion” will have listeners struggling to decipher what she’s saying and wondering when she picked up an island accent and morphed into Rihanna.
Gomez, who just turned 21, has a sweet voice that is seldom challenged here, although she does show off her range a little bit on the poppy, bouncy “Forget Forever,” a kiss-off song (perhaps about Justin Bieber during one of their splits?) that is far superior to anything else on “Stars Dance,” and the Madonna-esque “Undercover.” “B.E.A.T,” which has a fun, Britney Spears feel. diminished by a spoken Ke$ha-like intro and refrain.
Standard album closer, “Love Will Remember, is a mid-tempo tune about love remembering even when we want to forget a painful relationship. Like “Forget Forever,” most folks will pick it apart for clues to her relationship with Bieber, but Gomez delivers it so devoid of feeling that if she can’t muster the requisite emotion, there’s little reason for the listener to make any kind of investment.
The iTunes edition features two bonus tracks, the second of which, “Music Feels Better,” is a fun twirler that should have found its way on the regular edition.
Gomez has said she plans to focus on her acting and put music on the back burner again. With “Stars Dance,” she’ll leave her young fans with a frothy album they can dance around their bedrooms to, while she devotes herself to more substantial matters.