Look at her now: Selena Gomez releases polished breakup album ‘Rare’

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Grade: 4.5/5.0

A refreshing, authentic and tasteful listen from start to finish, the highly anticipated third studio album by singer Selena Gomez accurately fits its title: Rare. Although her voice is not the most powerful nor her range very wide, this is her most personal musical expression to date. The record is both distinctive and assertive enough for listeners to be in awe over her newly found confident energy.

With Rare, Gomez navigates the intricate art of lyricism along with her signature whispered vocals in a polished breakup album that sparkles as pop perfection. Rare feels like a light blanket of breathy vocals and atmospheric symphonies that consistently floats above a current of sonic music. There’s something oddly satisfying about hearing such a vulnerable and unique voice echo through a 13-track record, one that masterfully experiments with R&B and electro-pop music.

Thematically, the album reflects on the last few years of pain Gomez has endured both publicly and privately: worsening health struggles with lupus, an emergency kidney transplant, stays in mental health treatment centers and her fair share of high-profile breakups. Rare is shockingly and brilliantly masked as an upbeat album that, in reality, breaks down to heartbreaking and poetic stories. 

There is a lot of overall depth on Rare, whether through the lyrics or melodies, that takes listeners to “A Sweeter Place” — as the album’s song describes — unlike anything previously tied with Gomez’s signature style. She throws a party for her newly enlightened self on “Dance Again” — ready to let love in, to rise from the ashes of past relationships and drama-filled comment sections.

The titular track opens the album with Gomez relishing in her own uniqueness, noting how she deserves a lover who recognizes and values how rare she is. The song moves in a delicate manner as her breathy delivery hints at all of the love, loss and heartbreak she’s endured in the four years since her last album. “Vulnerable” carries Gomez’s epiphanies in a similar way, as she explains to her partner that diving deep into a public relationship means her secrets, demons and weaknesses come as a package deal.

The song “Lose You To Love Me” is arguably Gomez’s best and most mature song to date. The track has already dominated music charts across the globe, but when streamed through a pair of earphones, the track feels much more intimate than when played over the radio. During this emotional piano ballad, Gomez pulls listeners back down to earth after the surging energy of “Look At Her Now” with the lyrics, “I needed to hate you to love me.” One can’t help but hear her heart literally break halfway through the song in a powerful display of pure, raw emotion.

In album highlights “Ring,” “Kinda Crazy” and “Fun,” Gomez allows herself to experiment with a little bit of danger. “Fun” details just one of these risky moments — in the song, Gomez invites a troubling figure into her life simply because she wants to and feels strong enough to handle it. “You get me higher than my medication,” she sings in the second chorus, showing her struggle between playing it safe and yearning for a little bit of dicey fun.

Rare is honest, cathartic and inspires listeners to focus on the practice of self-love. As an ode to anybody who isn’t afraid to wear their heart on their sleeve, Gomez finds herself questioning the value of opening your heart and mind to a significant other. Insisting there’s no better feeling than letting all of your walls down, her ethereal vocals sweep in “Vulnerable” to proclaim, “If the only other option’s letting go/ I’ll stay vulnerable.”

What gives the album an edge is that it’s not what many fans expected to hear. As a raw and danceable album, Rare illustrates more than just the closing chapter of a romantic relationship for the singer. Rare invites the world to watch Selena Gomez step out in the limelight unapologetically, as the version of herself that’s here to stay.

Contact Salma Gomez at [email protected].