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Selena Gomez Moves Past Her Pain on the Resiliently Upbeat ‘Rare’

The singer’s third solo album is an act of divine ruthlessness, full of dance-y, mid-tempo clarity

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Brittany Spanos Jan 13, 2020

Selena Gomez.

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★ ★ ★ ★

Selena Gomez told us she would learn to take better care of herself on 2015’s Revival. On Rare, she puts that promise into action. Her third solo album is an act of divine ruthlessness: Gomez dances out the toxins weighing her down and breathes in loads of post-Lizzo “fuck you, I love me” energy.

Thankfully, Gomez released her saddest energy before dropping the full album. “Lose You to Love Me” is the only treacly ballad in her whole self-care routine this time around, and her reconciliation with heartbreak, pain and bad habits manifests through mostly dance-y, guitar-driven mid-tempo bops. The title track opens the album, with Gomez celebrating her own uniqueness, noting that she deserves someone who recognizes that, too. The song moves delicately, her signature breathy delivery giving her message a bit of necessary vulnerability. Fittingly, “Vulnerable” moves in much the same way: she pinky-promises a partner that she’s ready to bare her demons, secrets and weaknesses, vowing to stay that way for as long as they can handle it.

For how publicly and privately painful Gomez’s last few years have been — worsening struggles with lupus, a kidney transplant, stays in mental health treatment centers, high-profile break-ups — Rare is shockingly, and beautifully, upbeat. She wants to “Dance Again,” throwing a party for her newly enlightened self who is ready to let love in. She has thankfully concluded that baggage doesn’t mean she is incapable of accepting love and sensuality. On album highlights “Kinda Crazy” and “Fun,” she allows herself to experience a little bit of danger. The latter is one Rare’s finest moments: Gomez invites a bit of trouble into her life just because she wants to and feels strong enough to handle it. “You get me higher than my medication,” she sings on the second chorus, a cheeky line on a funky tune. She can have a little fun, as a treat.

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Album closer “A Sweeter Place,” aided by Kid Cudi, invites listeners into her past few years outside of the limelight. She took some time, “living out of the scene/Out in the wild.” It’s a gorgeous, melodic and, most impressively, hopeful moment. Gomez re-enters public life with grace and clarity, two very rare finds indeed.

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