For someone who’s had every moment of her life poked at by the public since she entered adolescence, there’s a lot we don’t know about Selena Gomez. But it makes sense that someone so closely looked at would want to hold all their cards to their chest. It’s why we were all shocked when the Disney princess checked herself into a mental facility back in 2016, why her entire relationship with The Weeknd felt like a blink-and-you-miss-it moment and why we expected her first album in 5 years to be an emotional mix of vulnerable ballads and instead it turned out to be the complete opposite.
While Rare is definitely a confessional piece, Gomez doesn’t want us to drown in sadness for one second. She’s done all that. She’s been broken but she’s fixed herself back up, placing every little piece back where it belongs and locking it in super tight so it wouldn’t dare break again. She’s healed now and it really shows. She’s dancing around her room to the same songs she used to cry to, practicing every method of self-love in the book. And she’s made the perfect album to showcase just that.
Rare starts off strong with the groovy title track. It’s the perfect way to paint the picture for what the album is with Gomez singing breathlessly “It feels like you don’t care, why don’t you recognise I’m so rare?” Instead of dripping in sorrow, the star is pitying an ex-lover for not recognising her incredible worth. The self-love is deafening. We’re then straight into the Daft Punk-esque ‘Dance Again,’ prancing around our room with a hairbrush in our hands. Over electrifying beats, Gomez states that it “Feels so good to dance again.” And we couldn’t agree more.
The album’s two singles ‘Look At Her Now’ and ‘Lose You To Love Me’ are stacked together, giving a perfect musical example of how different messages of self-love and happiness can sound. We continue our dance party with the magnetic ‘Look At Her Now’ and tumble right into the vulnerable ‘Lose You To Love Me.’ And while it’s unexpectedly the only emotional ballad on the album, it doesn’t feel lost among the fizzing dance-pop bops. It’s a moment of clarity we all achieve on the turbulent road of a break-up and therefore we need to see it before we can move forward.
The middle part of the album sees Gomez toying with different parts of romantic relationships, touching on things from casual hook-ups (‘Ring), vulnerability (the aptly titled ‘Vulnerable’) and how quickly people we love can turn into strangers. (‘People You Know.’) It’s like reading the star’s diary and while the thoughts aren’t wrapped in delicate piano melodies and fluttery echoes, they’re still there nonetheless. Gomez shows that you don’t need to equate sadness with feeling and that sometimes what we think are the most broken thoughts actually are just normal human ones.
Her collab with 6lack on ‘Crowded Room’ is a surprise, mostly because we see an R&B edge to Gomez that she’s only slipped into a few times before. But, undeniably, the genre suits her voice the best. ‘Crowded Room’ is soft and finds itself pulling away from any kind of distracting beat and it works really, really well. Accompanied with 6lack’s sexy verse, it just may well be one of the strongest on the album.
Production-wise, the album finishes strong. Literally. A collab with Kid Cudi is the final song. We couldn’t make up a better way to end an album if we tried. Julia Michaels jumps onto the writing credits for the ‘Bad Liar’-esque ‘Fun’ and creates a pop song so bubbly that it demands to be played on every radio station there is and ‘Cut You Off’ is just brilliant in every single way. Showcasing Gomez’ voice amazingly, the track resembles jazz beats and low swinging percussion that could easily be found on a Camila Cabello album.
Then we have the Kid Cudi collab ‘A Sweeter Place,’ a serious achievement on its own but Gomez’ voice seems to really work with Cudi’s famously known production. “Is there a place where I can hide away?” Gomez effortlessly sings, adding the final touches to the masterpiece she’s just created. “Have no fear, heaven is near, head so clear,” she continues. “My sweeter place.” And Rare really is.