May 6, 2016


Selena Gomez's 'Revival' Era: An Artistic and A&R Triumph

Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

I dive into the future, but I'm blinded by the sun. I'm reborn in every moment, so who knows what I'll become.


Every Disney star has their breakaway moment from the House of Mouse, and Selena Gomez's came in late 2015 with the release of her sophomore solo album Revival. The LP was her first on Interscope Records after one solo record, one greatest hits album, and three records as Selena Gomez & The Scene on the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, and the project's sound and message were reflective of that transitional moment.

To Date, Revival has (so far) seen all three of its singles top the radio charts—after never going No. 1 previously—and a big part of those records connecting comes from the cohesive material and messaging to truly let this artist shine as she never had before. 

In honor of her Revival Tour that kicks off today (May 6) at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center, it's time to honor the immaculate single choices that gave Revival its longevity and the ability to spur her largest world tour to date. Sure, Selena's past albums had hits ("Come & Get It" off 2013's Stars Dance, or "Love You Like a Love Song" off When the Sun Goes Down from 2011), but she had never connected a second (or third, or fourth) single like she has with her latest effort. Here's the breakdown of why Revival really, really worked:

First Single: "Good for You" featuring A$AP Rocky
Peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on U.S. Mainstream Top 40

From the start of the Revival campaign, Selena Gomez set a new tone for the future of her music career. Her first release after leaving the Disney-owned Hollywood Records, "Good for You" made the unexpected move of featuring A$AP Rocky, marking the first time she had teamed up with a hip-hop act on an album. Just from her feature choice, there was a shift.

But right away, we felt a sexier and undeniably more confident vibe set from Gomez, who wasn't tying her sexiness to a shtick (like embracing traditional Indian dances for "Come & Get It"), but instead kept things rather minimal with both the production and music video. Gomez isn't a powerhouse vocalist, and she's fully aware of that: "I know that maybe vocally I wouldn't be the greatest singer in the world," she told Z100 in June 2015, before adding, "but I know my strengths now; I know that I can translate emotion and heart." And the whispery croons of "Good for You" offered something fresh for pop fans and instantly became Selena's new signature sound. Sure, it might have been a little Lana Del Rey at times, but the overall feel, timbre and mood was all Selena.

Second Single: "Same Old Love"
Peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on U.S. Mainstream Top 40

Musically, "Same Old Love" did not bring anything incredibly fresh to the table, but what was smart about positioning it as Revival's second single was the overall message it exclaimed. Sure, the snappy, piano production was nice, but the standout moment was Gomez's fiery tone when proclaiming, "I'm so sick of that same old love / That shit, it tears me up."

Notably, "Same Old Love" was released on September 10, 2015, less than two weeks after Justin Bieber made his musical comeback with "What Do You Mean?" Despite it being rather clear the relationship was officially over, Bieber continued bringing up his "ex-girlfriend" in interviews and the inspiration for his new music. Meanwhile, Gomez was bringing the opposite viewpoint, declaring she was over all of it. In a world where pining women are too quickly called clingy while pining men are described as emotionally deep, Gomez was trashing the teen-romance narrative, and establishing an even stronger identity in the process.

Third Single: "Hands to Myself"
Peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 1 on U.S. Mainstream Top 40

From the first listen, "Hands to Myself" was a standout on Revival, with outlets like Spin naming it one of the best songs of 2015 despite it not being officially released as a single until January 2016. The slinky, drum'n'bass-turned-swelling pop production once again suited her breathy, staccato delivery. "Hands to Myself" had the confident and sexually charged feel of "Good for You," but also let Gomez's personality shine, perhaps even more than "Same Old Love."

Gomez begins with playful, whispery come-hithers that, once again, feel like could only be successfully pulled off by her. Then on the bridge, Gomez belts "Can't keep my hands to myself," before cutely deadpanning, "I mean I could, but why would I want to?" Here, Gomez broke the "Hands to Myself" persona to showcase something lighthearted. It felt uniquely her, again, and spotlighted her personality. 

Fourth Single: "Kill Em With Kindness"
Peaks TBD

As if the Revival single choices couldn't have gotten any better, it was recently announced that the house-y, whistle-y "Kill Em With Kindness" would continue the era. The track is a musical standout with its dark club production suited well for the star's lower register. But also, the song continues that positivity and looking-to-the-future attitude that the previous songs focused on, with lyrics like, "No war in anger was ever won / Put out the fire before igniting / Next time you’re fighting / Kill 'em with kindness."

While this cut perhaps best showcases Selena's focus on empowerment, that message was always there, stemming from her sexuality (like in "Good for You" or "Hands to Myself") and her comittment for a better future ("Same Old Love"), or simply wanting to spread overall positivity. Gomez has had a clear message for the entirety of Revival, and that should be celebrated. This album successfully established an artist's identity, and solo LP No. 3 looks ready to be another triumph.

Throw it back to a Selena Gomez interview from the Fuse vault where the star talked about changes in her musical career: