Release Date: Jul 23, 2013
Record label: Hollywood
Genre(s): Pop, Electronic, Pop/Rock, Teen Pop, Club/Dance, Dubstep
Selena Gomez has carved out a pretty nice career as a pop singer over the course of a run of well-produced, well-written, and very well-sung albums that haven't always been full of smash hits, but have an overall level of quality that pushed her to the head of the Disney class. After an album, 2011's When the Sun Goes Down, that streamlined her sound into a sleek and shiny pop rocket with both eyes on the dancefloor, Stars Dance takes a (slightly) more eclectic approach. Gomez and her team of writers and producers don't stray far from the dancefloor and party jams, and these are the strongest songs on the album.
All work and no public meltdowns make Selena a dull girl. The Disney vet has dated – and, OMG, split from – Justin Bieber and released three LPs, all while remaining pop's most ho-hum double threat. Stars Dance is her first album without her band, the Scene, and the first to feature orgasmic moans – see "Birthday," featuring 16 seconds of what sure sounds like simulated sex.
On her first solo album – the previous three were credited to Selena Gomez and the Scene – this 21-year-old actor/singer has a there-but-not-there quality reminiscent of Britney Spears. You don't expect lacerating intimacy from a former Disney star, but Gomez fails to impose so much as a trace of personality: from the electro-punk opener Birthday onward, she's competent and entirely impersonal. But that's no impediment to enjoying the record, which darts efficiently from EDM to Bollywood to – Beliebers, look away now – sappiness inspired by her on-off boyfriend, Justin Bieber.
The 20-year-old Disney Channel darling and Bieber squeeze made a smart choice in appearing in Harmony Korine's decidedly un-Disney movie Spring Breakers, but if she really wants to be considered a grown-up pop star, Selena Gomez is going to have to find some better hit-makers. Other than the sultry Stars Dance, much of this sounds like songs Rihanna rejected. As, it turns out, she did - the dancehall-lite of Come and Get It with its "na na nas" and "no lie, no lie" is a Rhi-Rhi reject.
This year has been a coming-out party of sorts for Selena Gomez. Like Britney and Christina before her, she's undergone a tightly controlled transformation from teen star to decidedly more mature performer. On the heels of her starring role in Harmony Korine's racy Spring Breakers, Gomez's rebranding continues with her new album, Stars Dance. Judged purely on its attempt to market the singer to a slightly older audience than her Disney Channel tween base, the album can be qualified as a success, as it boasts a harsher, edgier sound than that of her previous efforts; on every other front, it's a lazy, bloated, and occasionally offensive album that lacks any remnant of personality or creativity.
The recent girls-gone-wild exploitation flick “Spring Breakers” suggested that Disney-groomed Selena Gomez would follow the common enough trajectory of squeaky-clean teen stars declaring their independence by steering hard in the opposite direction. But the movie seems to have gotten it out of her system; the whirring “Stars Dance” is a confident but not aggressively blatant move to a more grown-up pop playing field. Like its predecessor, “When the Sun Goes Down,” it’s weightless but fun.