Monday, January 20th, 2020

Selena Gomez – Rare



Brad Shoup: A classic pop rhythm, scored for rubber band and wastebasket: Gomez starts the drive pinned at her own 5. A standard set of plays — an admittedly nice older/toaster rhyme, a Del Rey-indebted sonic treatment on the second “feels like” gets her into field-goal range. A bridge that doesn’t sound like the chorus might have punched it in.

Alfred Soto: The rhythm’s the star, but Selena Gomez’s scratchy timbre exerts its own pull. They must. Are “rare” and “special” synonyms? The way she drops a. word. at. a. time. gives me too much to consider the matter. 

Joshua Minsoo Kim: The bass keeps things steady, and the hand percussion provides cute fills, but “Rare” doesn’t achieve enough of a ruminative tone to warrant its length. What becomes increasingly obvious as the song progresses is that it’s far too reliant on Gomez’s affected vocalizing to keep things afloat. Would be a [7] when excerpted for TikTok though.

Michael Hong: Selena Gomez’s voice is best suited for tracks with tangible intimacy; her vocals are breathy and sultry and “Rare” might just be one of the best examples. The Gomez of “Rare” is effortlessly confident: “I’m not gonna beg for you.” Through her voice, the word “rare” becomes alluringly seductive when drawn out in the chorus or breathily whispered in the background. The instrumental feels like a natural progression of her previous work, with background capturing the offbeat hollow feeling of previous tracks. It creates a swaying rhythm without drawing too much focus away from Gomez’s performance, instead, inflating her bursting confidence.

Joshua Lu: In Pitchfork‘s critique of Rare, the reviewer finds fault with how “impersonal” the album is, with songs that “feel like they could be sung by anyone” and not just by Selena Gomez. The rest of the review hints at the kind of person they consider Selena Gomez to be: Her record number of Instagram followers is mentioned, as well as her Disney roots, and, of course, her ex and their breakup — it’s all reminiscent of their review of “Bad Liar,” which was predominantly a breakdown of Selena’s various corporate sponsorships. Criticland seems to be lagging as poptimism enters the new decade; pop songs can excel without this celebrity contextualization, and expecting as much from an artist like Selena makes one not much better than the radio host I heard during release week gleefully anticipating Selena “spilling the tea” on her breakup with the album drop. (Said radio host was a white, heterosexual man.) Nobody cares about who “Dancing On My Own” or “Run Away With Me” are about, and their lyrics reveal little about the actual singers’ lives, yet pop artists (typically women, always bona-fide celebrities) often have their output examined from a tabloid perspective. “Rare” succeeds without this because it’s a tightly woven pop song that works with Selena’s strengths as a singer and artist. Her feather-light voice works perfectly on an equally buoyant track, and the little pressure in how she digs into the title is like an aural nudge to her partner to grab his attention. The lyrics are direct but provide enough intrigue to require multiple listens to understand (“burning toast on the toaster” could signify so many things — a metaphor for their aging, a representation of her preoccupied mind, just a filler word that rhymes with “older”). Yes, it’s an impersonal track clearly written with the help of a team of pop songwriters and clearly about nobody in particular, but handwringing feels pointless in the face of a pleasant earworm like this. 

Wayne Weizhen Zhang: This is pleasant and all, but why make this the single when “Dance Again” is right there

Josh Buck: Gomez goes three for three on this album’s singles. “Rare” is a crystalline slice of electro-pop, as Selena refracts a break-up through a prism and delivers an early 2020 gem. 

Reader average: [5] (1 vote)

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5 Responses to “Selena Gomez – Rare”

  1. Marvelous blurb, Joshua L.

  2. Ach I didn’t realize this was running today but would’ve been an [8] from me although I keep secretly hoping that “Ring” will become a single complete with Chicago-inspired music video


  4. thanks, alfred!

  5. this subhead makes me want to go full “LMAO WHO DID THIS *crying while laughing emoji* *crying while laughing emoji* *crying while laughing emoji* *crying while laughing emoji*”

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