Selena Gomez & The Scene
Hollywood Records, USA
by Blanca Méndez
Hilary Duff at the height of Lizzie McGuire was one of the most successful and beloved young entertainers in the business. Her Disney Channel show's ratings were some of the highest the network had ever seen and she had a legion of fans that seemed ready to follow her as she tested musical waters. But a few lackluster singles and a couple of forgettable movies later, and Duff was relegated to the has-been pile along with the other child stars who didn't quite weather the transition to adult star. Miley Cyrus followed the same path, and we have yet to see if her Hannah Montana-fueled stardom will last. So, is Selena Gomez's career doomed to the same fate? Not necessarily. For one, Gomez actually has a good voice. And, perhaps most importantly, Gomez's fan base is more powerful than Duff's ever was because of their online presence. Perhaps if Facebook and Twitter had been around in Duff's heyday, she might still be a major player in entertainment today. Not only is Gomez's fan base a strong online force, they are also very loyal. This base that she built from starring in the popular Disney Channel series Wizards of Waverly Place stayed with her when she branched out into film and music (Gomez is already on her third studio album), and even after she snagged everyone's dream boyfriend, Justin Bieber. Her latest album, When the Sun Goes Down, which Gomez cleverly debuted on YouTube earlier this week, is expertly produced and executed with the kind of poise and professionalism that can only come from having gone through the hated Disney machine.
Gomez is a born performer whose acting chops come through on album highlight "Whiplash." The song, co-written by Britney Spears, goes hard with fantastic talk-singing theatrics over some pretty sick beats. Also noteworthy are the buoyant "My Dilemma" and latest single "Love You Like A Love Song,” with its accompanying technicolor video, complete with piñata, quinceañera dress, and electro mariachi. Synth-heavy "Bang Bang Bang" is a verging on childish middle finger to the trifling ex-boyfriend. On the track, Gomez brags about her "way better than you" new boyfriend, and she has good reason to brag seeing as she and the Biebz form a power couple to rival Beyonce and Jay-Z. And, according to this track, dude knows how to treat his lady right. Or maybe she just knows how to keep him in line, like in "That's More Like It," a song co-written by Katy Perry. We see where they were going with the track, but, much like Perry herself, the track turned out trite (though still incredibly catchy).
The empowering message of "Who Says" gets lost in translation in "Dices." The English version of the song borders on nauseating with its beauty-lies-below-the-surface and you-can-be-anything-you-want-in-life themes, but lines like, "Who says you're not star potential? Who says you're not presidential?" are equally charming and cringe-worthy. Gomez recorded a Spanish version of the song because she felt its message was an important one to share with a wider audience. Unfortunately, she didn't know what she was singing when she recorded "Dices" and ended up singing about not being a "flor de metal" (whatever that means). Woops.
Riddled with cliches like "diamond in the rough" and "we'll sleep when we die," the album doesn't exactly reach great lyrical heights. But musically, When the Sun Goes Down is smart and well-crafted, a solid work of pop with plenty of party potential. I know many (or most) of you are skeptical. You may dismiss Gomez as just another product of the Disney machine, one that consumers will get bored with and discard in favor of whatever fresh-faced, wholesome youngster Disney is grooming to be the Next Big Thing. And you may be right. But, for now, it's great to have a young Latina so prominent in mainstream American music, especially one who such is a veritable force in pop, not just on Radio Disney.