album review | POP

Selena Gomez takes the reins on ‘Revival’

Elizabeth Weinberg/The New York Times/NYT

In the lead-up to her new album, Selena Gomez has talked at length about reclaiming her identity and feeling more confident. It wasn’t easy. The past year had been turbulent, from endless gossip about her relationship with her former flame, fellow pop star Justin Bieber, to online harassment about her weight and appearance.

Also an actor (“Spring Breakers”) and a former Disney Channel star, Gomez has been in the public eye since she was a child. But in her early 20s, she’s starting to chafe against the trappings of celebrity. Her story is a reminder that no matter how much social media has empowered artists to have a direct line of communication, they can’t always control the narrative of what’s said and written about them.


“Revival,” then, is not just the title of her latest album, which Interscope Records, her new label, will release on Friday. It’s a statement of purpose.

“I dive into the future, but I’m blinded by the sun,” Gomez, 23, intones as a prelude to the opening title track. “I’m reborn in every moment, so who knows what I’ll become.”

That’s a ponderous reflection that suggests what we’re about to hear marks a new beginning. And that is in fact what Gomez achieves on “Revival,” a forthright album of pop songs that make it clear she is ready to be honest and even vulnerable in her music.

Gomez, who will bring next year’s world tour to TD Garden on May 28, had already released four studio albums, three of them credited to Selena Gomez & the Scene, a band effort, and a solo record, 2013’s “Stars Dance.” But they were all soft-focus efforts that never revealed that much about Gomez’s inner workings.

She corrects course on “Revival,” venturing into new sonic territory that reveals an affinity for minimalist dance beats and smoldering R&B grooves. As heard on the album’s first single, “Good for You,” a narcotic love song featuring rapper A$AP Rocky, she is more at ease singing these sultry songs rather than the generic electro-pop of her previous efforts. She’s using her voice to fuller effect, too, exploring her lower range and playing up the smokier edges of her speaking voice.


Of course, it’s next to impossible to hear these songs as anything but commentaries on her love life, specifically her relationship with Bieber. In light of his own public struggles recently, a song like “Sober” comes off as an indictment: “You don’t know how to love me when you’re sober,” Gomez sings. “When the bottle’s done/ You pull me closer.”

Elsewhere the album cuts loose with dance-floor catnip such as “Kill Em With Kindness” and “Hands to Myself,” the latter of which is a collaboration with Max Martin, the Swedish producer with the Midas touch. On “Me & the Rhythm,” Gomez takes her own advice: “If you feel like you’re the spark/ Then come out of the dark.”


ESSENTIAL “Good for You”

Watch the video for “Good for You”:

James Reed can be reached at jreed@globe.com.