ROLLINGSTONE.COM
ROLLINGSTONE.COM

Child stars have a tendency to star to lose it as they blossom into adults. Whether they get mixed up in drugs (Lindsay), rebel against their parents (Miley) or just go insane (Amanda), it sometimes seems they all face the same fate. However, there are the lucky few that manage to escape this unfortunate destiny. Selena Gomez has found a way to seemingly maintain total control of her life as a normal person while continuing to climb the Hollywood ladder of fame. This former Disney child actress (who happened to turn 21 earlier this week) is proving that it is possible for child stars to make a smooth transition into adulthood with her new album Stars Dance.

Her first release as a solo artist after three previous albums released with her band The Scene, Stars Dance shows Selena moving toward a much more mature place, both musically and personally. The album is chock full of dance-ready beats and catchy hooks, and the overall sound might even be described as refined compared to her earlier releases. But like her previous music, the lyrics and musical complexity are still rather shallow. Selena makes up for this lack of depth by oozing a greater sex appeal accompanied by an air of finally knowing what she’s doing.

Lyrically, this album is more overtly sensual than any of her music has been in the past, which I’m sure has much to do with her highly public relationship with Justin Bieber. Its sound is not at all what you might expect from a former Disney star; she’s embracing a much edgier genre than the standardbubblegum pop, opting instead for an up-tempo, dance aesthetic. This isn’t to say that there’s no trace of her roots here, since as Selena herself states that Britney Spears was a huge influence on the album. This inspiration is easily seen in standouts “Write Your Name” and “B.E.A.T.,” which might as well be straight out of the late ’90s.

Just like her previous release, When the Sun Goes Down, almost every song on the record is great. Even the songs that are objectively bad are still fun and carry a certain charm that only Selena can pull off effectively. The album opener “Birthday” might be the worst song I’ve ever heard, but it’s still hard to escape its fun stupidity. “Come and Get It,” the album’s first single, shows Selena’s experimentation with Bollywood music, while “Undercover,” among other songs, shows the influence of EDM. Other standouts include the second single “Slow Down,” and “Like a Champion,” a reggae-inspired pop song with unexpected groove that echoes Rihanna.

This album shows Selena forming her own, unique sound within the pop-dance subgenre, setting herself apart from the hoards of other teenybopper pop stars. Even if you don’t think you like the genre of pop music that is currently flooding the airwaves, Stars Dance is worth a listen. It sets itself apart through its more elegant sound and sophisticated style. While it may not contain any songs as radio-friendly as “Naturally” or heartfelt as “Who Says,” Selena’s evolving sound is something that many critics are taking an interest in. Band or not, she’s got what it takes to be a big hit, and this album is just the beginning.

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