Sunday, September 29, 2013

Dull debut: Stars Dance fails to shine

album review
Selena Gomez's first solo album comes off as a lazy effort by a singer who seems lost without her backing band. An unexciting set of songs, the album offers listening pleasure only to the most philistine of tastes

Artist: Selena Gomez
Album: Stars Dance

Prior to the release of her new album, Selena Gomez announced that after issuing Stars Dance she'd be taking a musical hiatus to focus on her acting career. After listening to the album, it's hard to argue with her decision. If this is the best she can do as a recording artist, then stepping away from music just might be the smart move for her at the moment.

Part of her controlled transformation from Disney starlet to a young adult, Stars Dance serves as her debut set as a solo artist, since her previous three efforts were also credited to her backing band, the Scene. But despite being a tad more edgy than her work with the Scene, the record comes off as a thoroughly tepid affair that is just as characterless as it is impersonal. A set of 11 songs, none of which were penned by the singer, the record ebbs under a wave of typical electropop that feels commonplace and unnecessary.

At no point during the record do we get a real sense of who Selena Gomez really is, nor do we get a glimpse of her personality or individuality. These songs could have been recorded by anyone from Britney to Rihanna (in fact RiRi did reject one of the tracks, the “na na na” laden 'Come and Get It') to similar effect, and we would have hardly noticed the difference. The basic template remains the same: autotuned vocals set to EDM and dubstep influenced tunes. To be fair, the album does try to be very current, and makes an attempt to cover as much contemporary pop ground as it can. But the touches of various assorted elements - such as the tabla on lead single 'Come and Get It' and the dancehall of the awkward 'Like a Champion' - just seem latched on to create the illusion of diversity.

And while electropop does seem like the best bet for the singer, who did make the sound work somewhat with the Scene, but the lack of meaningfulness and intimacy work in the album's detriment. Sure fans will enjoy the dance pop of ditties like 'Forget Forever', 'Save the Day', and 'B.E.A.T.' (even if the latter is suspiciously similar to Dev's 'Bass Down Low'), and will happily go along with the singer's efforts to emulate the fun vibe. And listeners who enjoy this kind of music aren't likely to mind if the songs are overproduced and the vocals are autotuned or buried under layers of synths. But anyone who isn't already enchanted by this pop princess will find her latest musical effort generic, sterile, and lazy.

The album does not make an effort to define Selena Gomez as either a person or an artist. Even by the standards of manufactured music, the set fails to display any individuality or innovativeness. It relies too heavily on external personnel, and seems to have required minimal effort on the part of the singer herself. Sure there are fun pop pleasers here that have delighted Selena's fans enough to propel Stars Dance to the top of the charts. But anyone looking for something more than superficial pop sheen is very likely to be disappointed by this record.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 29th September, 2013

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