Music Review: Selena Gomez, “Stars Dance”

“Stars Dance” is a shot at adulthood for Selena Gomez, an attempt to escape the thin, tinny pop that usually surrounds Disney starlets, and on a few isolated tracks she comes close to success.
Oklahoman Published: August 2, 2013
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POP

Selena Gomez ‘Stars Dance' (Hollywood)

Selena Gomez turned 20 last month, and her fourth album, the ultraslick “Stars Dance,” arrives in a year when the former “Wizards of Waverly Place” star has tried to move beyond her safe-as-milk Disney roots with roles in “Spring Breakers” and “Rudderless,” the William H. Macy-directed independent film that was shot this spring in Oklahoma City. Like those film roles, “Stars Dance” is a shot at adulthood, an attempt to escape the thin, tinny pop that usually surrounds Disney starlets, and on a few isolated tracks she comes close to success.

Gomez' best chance at a breakthrough is “Come & Get It,” a stutter-stop raga-pop pounder co-written by Muskogee native Ester Dean and punctuated by strategic bass drops and a maddeningly gooey chorus — it sounds like a real hit for a singer who has mostly scored within the hermetic Disney Radio culture. And it's not her only potential smash: Opening track “Birthday” might be super-annoying in its commitment to self-centered repetition, but “Birthday” and the dance floor-ready “Slow Down” are engineered for radio overplaying and maximized for ritual remixing.

To her credit, Gomez steers away from midtempo material and ballads until the closing and utterly forgettable “Love Will Remember,” but “Stars Dance” is puffed up with padding outside of the core tracks that works for attention. It also lacks the authenticity of truly great pop music — Gomez cannot quite sell the fake patois on the Buju Banton-sampling “Like a Champion.” Still, it shows signs that Gomez could have more staying power than many in her peer group, and if she can pull in more quality material to match the handful of bright spots on “Stars Dance,” she could make the charts her very own Magic Kingdom.

George Lang