Friday, September 30, 2016

Teen Pop-Rock Generica: Kiss & Tell Fails To Thrill!

The Good: Catchy tunes, Listenable, Moments of voice
The Bad: Overproduced, Repetitive, Some truly lame rhymes, Short
The Basics: Kiss & Tell was the musical debut of Selena Gomez & The Scene . . . and it is pretty surprising there was ever a follow-up!

It is always very interesting to me to see who is able to successfully traverse one medium to another - like singers who show genuine talent for acting or actors who make magnificent directors or writers who prove they have the chops to executive produce a television show that is consistently great. Selena Gomez got her start as a child actor, arguably because she was on kids shows and had a very natural "cute" factor that got her foot in the door. But, as her tenure on the Disney Channel came toward an end, Selena Gomez - like Miley Cyrus before her - made the transition from child actress to young pop star. The debut album of Selena Gomez & The Scene was Kiss & Tell.

Kiss & Tell is a debut album full of rookie mistakes that achieved some measure of commercial success arguably because it was exceptionally well-promoted at the time. Had Selena Gomez not been associated with the Disney brand, the Disney Channel and ABC probably would not have utilized their influence to push the product and the album would have been forgotten with the one-hit wonders and the could-have-beens. But in the final analysis, Kiss & Tell feels much more like a product than it does a musical expression or anything truly artistic.

With only thirteen songs, totaling 42:20, Kiss & Tell is very short. Selena Gomez & The Scene are responsible for co-writing only two of the tracks. Gomez provides all of the lead vocals and some of the backing vocals, while members of The Scene play the primary instruments, which are guitar, bass, keyboards and drums. Kiss & Tell feels like a product in that most of the songs have multiple producers and engineers and the album has a hodgepodge sound to it that seems to be the result of it lacking an executive producer that had a clear musical concept for the album. Kiss & Tell is the musical shotgun approach to attempting to make hit pop songs.

Musically, Kiss & Tell is largely an album filled with very generic pop-rock songs. While the album begins with "Kiss & Tell," a song that sounds like it could have come from pretty much any garage rock band, most of the album treads more toward pop. Indeed, only "Crush" stands out as having similar noticeable guitarwork that promotes the instrumentation with a tune and a sense of edge to it. Kiss & Tell is a mix of rock, pop and one or two tracks (like "Tell Me Something I Don't Know") that try to edge closer to hip-hop. Kiss & Tell, predictably, does not have a cohesive overall sound.

"I Promise You" has good vocals that promote Selena Gomez's natural voice, but not her range. In fact, outside only one real stretch for a high note in "Crush," Gomez plays it musically safe and many of the producers obscure her natural vocals with production elements. Even the ballad "The Way I Loved You" drowns out Gomez's vocals at some of her most raw moments! Kiss & Tell does not present any truly audacious or musically interesting vocals.

On the lyrical front, Kiss & Tell is something of a mess. The album has some moments and Selena Gomez is actually singing some of what she knows by singing about young love on some of the songs. On "I Promise You," Gomez creates an effortless sound and there is something authoritative in the earnestness of her delivery. When Gomez sings "They say that we're just too young / To know / But I'm sure heart and soul / That I am never letting you go / When it's right it's right / And this is it / 'Cause I'm walking on air / Every single time that we kiss" ("I Promise You"), the listener believes the singer has a clear idea of what she is singing about.

But Kiss & Tell is plagued by songs with terrible, predictable rhymes. The poetics of "I picked you out in a crowd of a thousand faces / Yea, I found you oooooooo / I chose the whys and the whens all the random places . . . Well you think you are the one who got me boy / But I got u / I've been playing with you like a lil toy" ("I Got U") were stale long before Selena Gomez & The Scene used them!

The other real mark against the writing on Kiss & Tell is its duration. Most of the songs are in the three minute range, but they utilize a lot of repetition. For example, the word "more" appears in the song "More" at least 34 times in a song about three and a half minutes in duration! There is a mind-numbing quality to the repetition in the song and it is not the only song that suffers from repetition problems.

Ultimately, Kiss & Tell is an entirely unremarkable debut for Selena Gomez & The Scene. It is a product that started Selena Gomez down the path to be a popular icon and a cash cow for big corporations, but it lacks any of the artistry and talent that later works by Selena Gomez exhibited. The best track is "I Promise You," the low point is "More."

For other works with Selena Gomez, please visit my reviews of:
The Fundamentals Of Caring
Revival (Deluxe Edition)
The Big Short
Hotel Transylvania 2
Behaving Badly
Stars Dance
Hotel Transylvania
When The Sun Goes Down - Selena Gomez & The Scene
A Year Without Rain - Selena Gomez & The Scene
Horton Hears A Who!


To see how this album stacks up against every other musical work I have reviewed, please check out my Music Review Index Page where the reviews are organized best to worst rated!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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