The Good: Hints of natural voice (?)
The Bad: Short, Terrible lyrics, Awful music, Overproduced vocals
The Basics: Conceptually and musically immature, Stars Dance is a flat-out terrible album.
When I selected Selena Gomez as my September Artist Of The Month, the truth is, I did not know what I was getting myself into. Before this week - when I have had Selena Gomez on heavy-repeat - I was more familiar with Gomez as an actress than as a musical artist. But having listened to Revival (reviewed here!) and now Stars Dance, it occurs to me that I might not have ever heard a Selena Gomez song before I made her my Artist Of The Month. If I have heard any of her singles, they were not tracks from her last two albums. And, as I sit down to review Stars Dance, I'm not entirely sure what the appeal is of Selena Gomez's music.
For sure, Selena Gomez is amazingly attractive; one need only see her album covers or see her in a movie to get that. But as a musical artist, Stars Dance does nothing positive to promote anything good about Gomez. Indeed, from the first track, I had a sinking feeling in my stomach and the phrase "what the hell am I listening to?!" going though my head pretty constantly. Stars Dance is not only a generic dance-pop album, it is a repetitive, insipid, virtual parody of music that is almost entirely unlistenable.
With only eleven tracks, clocking out at 38:59, Stars Dance is short. Usually, this is a severe detraction to an album, which can hold at least seventy-one minutes of music; with Stars Dance it feels like a mercy killing that the album ends so soon (not soon enough!). Selena Gomez bears minimal blame for Stars Dance, though. Gomez provides the lead vocals on all of the songs, but she is a performer only on the album. Gomez is not credited with playing any instruments on Stars Dance, she did not even co-write any of the songs and she was not involved in the album's production. As a result, Selena Gomez displays no real artistry on Stars Dance and the way her vocals are produced over on most of the songs, there is very little of Selena Gomez herself on the album.
Stars Dance is a heavily-produced album. The songs are constructed by multiple producers and writers. The synths and percussion machines dominate the sound to create a repetitive, boring dance-pop album that has little distinction to it. As well, several songs include samples and random shout-outs to the track's producers that create a sense that the album is just a bunch of people exploiting Selena Gomez for advertising space as opposed to creating actual music. There is an absolutely ridiculous quality to Selena Gomez shouting out about cataracts in the middle of a song - it has nothing to do with the single, The Cataracts were the track's producers. Seriously, listening to the song it's virtually impossible not to sit up and say "What the hell?!" and were I not reviewing the album, I would not have even bothered looking up an answer to what was going on in that song.
Selena Gomez has an amazing voice. It is not evident on Stars Dance. There are moments in "Love Will Remember" where Gomez's natural voice creeps through. The rest of the time, Gomez's voice is sublimated to production elements and the musical accompaniment, such as it is, is produced to have more auditory force than her vocals.
In some ways, it does not matter that Gomez's voice is largely obscured on Stars Dance; most of the lyrics are just incidental noise, as opposed to coherent statements. Oddly, the album might well open with the most rational collection of lyrics and "Birthday" appears to be about getting what one wants when going out to party by telling the club (or other business) that it's the musical protagonist's birthday. It's hard not to feel like Gomez is just opening herself up for self-exploitation when she sings "Tell 'em that it's my birthday / When I party like that / Every night's my birthday / They don't know, so it's okay / Tell 'em that it's my birthday / When I party like that . . . Happy as can be / Falling into you, falling into me (so yummy) / How do you do, come and meet the queen, cake and cream" ("Birthday") and she's not doing anything for female empowerment by whining and encouraging manipulation that way.
Stars Dance actually lost me with the title track. The people writing for Selena Gomez on Stars Dance are ridiculously immature and they preyed on the idea that Gomez would not notice. Lines like "Our love was made to rule the world / You came and broke the perfect girl / Our love was made to rule the world / Our love was made to rule the world / You left me wanting what we were" ("Forget Forever") show an absolute lack of understanding about the emotion of love. Indeed, "Forget Forever" only makes sense if it is intended as an anthem for Jasmine from the fourth season of Angel (reviewed here!).
More than making a musical statement, Stars Dance seems to be much more about making a vocal accompaniment to the produced beats and rhythms the producers have put together. As a result, the typical lines on Stars Dance are painfully predictable lines that most listeners can call well in advance. Even Selena Gomez cannot make the lines "Kiss the moon goodbye / But don't close your eyes, your eyes / It's the end of the night / But the beginnin' of time, for you and I / I... I can't believe that my body's still movin' / I... It makes me feel like we're doin' somethin' right" ("Save The Day") sound remotely fresh.
Ultimately, Stars Dance is just an unredeemably bad album . . . at least it did not make me feel sick to listen to it, just bored. Then again, my eyes did start to hurt from all my eye rolling while I was forced to contemplate the album . . .
After eight times listening to Stars Dance, I chose "Love Will Remember" as the album's superlative track mostly because it offers the most hints of Gomez's natural voice. Even that song is pretty much crap, though Stars Dance sets the bar incredibly low from the outset with "Birthday."
For other, former, Artist Of The Month works, please visit my reviews of:
Glory (Deluxe Edition) - Britney Spears
Rumours (2-disc version) - Fleetwood Mac
Remember - Janis Ian
For other music reviews, please check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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