“When you ready come and get it / na na na na, na na na na, na na na na…” Whoa! “Come and get what” ? When a growing, teen-pop star attempts to mature into an artist who appeal to adults as well as her core base, the transitional phase can be sketchy. On Stars Dance, Selena Gomez attempts to ‘grow up’ (she’s now 21) by making a more aggressive dance-pop sound with some naughty innuendo. OK. The aforementioned simplistic but more sensually-alluding chorus is a common trick within Gomez’s bag recurring throughout the effort. Sometimes it works at least moderately, while other times its merely so-so or more forgettable. It’s not necessarily that audiences ‘aren’t ready yet’ to ‘come and get’ what a more adult Gomez has to serve, but the album is flawed with often over-repetitive material, a lack of depth lyrically, and sometimes too reserved, unemotional vocals from the starlet herself.
In the end Stars Dance is unable to match the buzz surrounding ubiquitous hit single “Come & Get It”. Regardless, here's my closer examination of the album, as a whole.
“Birthday” opens up Stars Dance solidly, though it’s nothing spectacular. For the umpteenth time, a ubiquitous, annual event has been turned into a song; been there, done that. “Birthday” is trends simplistic lyrically, like its title and the album as a whole. Gomez initiates the number with the chorus: “tell ‘em that it’s my birthday…when I party like that, every night’s my birthday…”. Alrighty then. On the verses, depth remains nonexistent as she is “happy as can be / fallin’ into you, fallin’ into me (verse one) and “feeling fine and free /crashing into you / crashing into me…” (verse two). It is what it is. Personally, I couldn’t spin “Birthday” for 365 days – 366 in a leap year. It just wouldn’t stick that long.
“Slow Down” is better, anchored by a danceable four on the floor beat. The overall production is superb, particularly during the chorus. Gomez manages some memorable moments as well lyrically, including “Now that I have captured your attention / I want to steal you for a rhythm, rhythm intervention…” (verse one) and “If you want me I’m accepting applications / so long as we can k-keep this record on rotation…” (verse two). The gimmicks are annoying, but there is enough bite here to let ‘em slide this one time. However, one wonders what exactly a Selena Gomez “rhythm intervention” entails…
Title track “Stars Dance” is a letdown. Gomez lacks the vocal punch and oomph here to really ‘drive home’ this particular number. That doesn’t restrain any naughtiness mind you, as “I’ll make you whisper my name and never leave the room…” is a far cry from any teen-pop script. By the end, there’s just one too many layers and none of them are incredibly dynamic or ear-catching. On “Like A Champion”, Gomez’s decision to go tropical (vocal emulation and all) is quite questionable. If gimmickry was acceptable on “Slow Down”, it is pretty annoying here. “Walk like a champion, talk like a champion / ram pa pa pam pam…” WTF? But then Selena always ‘naughties’ it up: “dancing and the sweat don’t dry / one shot so baby hit it…” Even so, hearing Gomez mention the word “sexy”, particularly three consecutive times recurrently throughout the song is just…odd… She’s not on the Wizards of Waverly Place anymore!
“Come & Get It” arrives as annoying as ever – yep I said it. Is it decent/kinda good? Yes/kinda. Does it sound like a copycat? Most definitely. The difference between this and a Rihanna cut is that Rihanna could pull off the performance with more energy and personality. The production is a bright spot while the “na na na na(s)” are dumb as [bleep]. “Forget Forever” makes “Come & Get It” feel valedictory. Why? “Forget Forever” sounds rather blasé. Gomez bores vocally, failing to captivate. Thankfully, “Save the Day” does as its title suggests, with Gomez sounding more invested. The gimmickry doesn’t fade with the bridge’s collection of nonsensical syllables way over the top, but otherwise, the cut isn’t too shabby.
“B.E.A.T.” is by no means an intelligent number, but it has great ‘potential’ nonetheless. A cut that Ke$ha or Fergie would slay, Gomez doesn’t quite possess the same level of sass/attitude (yet) to pull it off convincingly. Still, if you don’t mind going stupid, this one goes pretty dumb. I get that Gomez is going for her own distinct artistry on “Write Your Name”, but all I could hear/see was Madonna, specifically “Vogue”. No “Write Your Name” is not fashionable, but it does have spoken word portions quite similar to famous ‘raps’ on the classic. But Gomez again takes the opportunity to be…grown: “Cover me, all you are, over me, your signature…” Somehow, I don’t think she’s really referring to a John Hancock, do you? “Undercover” is better rounded, with a solid driving dance beat behind Gomez. Her feistiness manages to cut through as well: “You’re a sex machine, you’re a Hollywood dream / and you got me feeling like a homecoming queen…” Unfortunately, closer “Love Will Remember” puts a serious wrench in the momentum, which Gomez once more eschewing emotion for stoic coolness. Bummer (Some editions add bonus cuts “Nobody Does It Like You” and “Music Feels Better”).
Ultimately, Stars Dance is inconsistent and a bit underwhelming. Gomez has her moments, but the album itself doesn’t match the buzz surrounding “Come & Get It”. The potential may be here, but the consistency and excitability lacks to often. Perhaps this album is one of ‘growing pains’ that can and will be better ironed out with Gomez’s follow-up. One piece of advice to Gomez, please relax on the multisyllabic gimmicks! SMH.
Favorites: “Slow Down”; “Save the Day”; “Undercover”