Four years since her last album Revival, Selena Gomez released her third album, Rare, on Jan. 1. Earning No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart, the album feeds into the 2020 mindset, as not a tell-all ballad of heartache, but focusing on self-growth and the aftermath of relationship gone south.
Starting from the titular and opening track, “Rare,” Gomez does not lament on past relationships, but rather focuses on her self-worth.
Unlike past songs like “The Heart Wants What It Wants” or “Fetish,” Gomez does not cling to her partner as they undervalue her. Instead, she has emotionally grown, recognizing that she deserves to be loved because no one is like her, nor could she try to be someone else.
Moving into the next two tracks, “Dance Again” and “Look at Her Now,” Gomez maintains an optimistic outlook.
Despite being in toxic relationships and riddled with anxiety and depression, she chooses to move on and be her own entity and not someone else’s other half.
Though a cliché in pop music is to dance the night away to cure heartache, Gomez being able to dance again is significant as her self-esteem and confidence were chipped away at for years.
She does not make any explicit mention to her break up with Justin Bieber, rehab treatments or her Lupus diagnosis, and thus she’s not dwelling on the past but focusing on the present.
Then suddenly on the dance floor, she is hit with the realization that she needed to break away from her partner in order to remember who she is as a person in “Lose You to Love Me.” This song, along with “Vulnerable,” offers the closest insight into Gomez’s emotional struggle towards self-actualization.
With the instrumental quieter than her singing, it is as though Gomez is passionately singing to herself and the listener is eavesdropping as she reaches her long-awaited epiphany.
In “Ring,” “Let Me Get Me” and “Cut You Off,” Gomez has experienced a confidence awakening. Not afraid to let toxic people go and live for herself, the songs take on a more upbeat tempo as she grows more into who she really is.
While on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Gomez explained why she chose the unique title, Rare.
“I think in this time where everyone is obsessed with feeling like they need to look the same way or get things done or whatever it may be, there are some girls who are hurting because they feel like they don’t fit in, but this word is eliminating that because you weren’t meant to look like everyone else. You’re meant to be who you are and that’s unique and that’s rare.”
By this third album, Gomez expresses not only that she accepts who she is as a person and is ready to leave her past behind, but that she is beginning to understand herself musically as well.
On previous albums, critics found her to be singing out of her vocal range to appease technopop trends.
In this album, however, she focuses on her own narrative, which appears more real and natural through her quiet, breathy singing on notable tracks.
Though Gomez strives to tell her own story and give a message to focus on one’s own self-worth, she isn’t entirely successful.
Many of the songs do not seem to be personalized her and lack the believability that the songs are representations of her journey.
With the exceptions of “Lose You to Love Me” and “Vulnerable,” her voice is lost, especially in the tracks featuring other artists like “A Sweeter Place.” Within her own theme of self-empowerment and moving on, Gomez seems to lose her voice rather than gain it.
Drowned out by experimentation with pop beats and even autotuned, it begs the question as to where her own voice is, especially as she sings of her own rarity.