The Jakarta Post
A solid collection of mostly mid-tempo electro pop, Revival (Polydor Records) isn't as much of a revival as its title suggests.
The fourth record from singer-actress Selena Gomez offers up the expected dose of radio-ready music that mainstream listeners expect from the former teen star in addition to the requisite retrospection of the dramatic last few years of her life.
After all, not only did Gomez break up with her megastar boyfriend Justin Bieber, but she also underwent treatment for Lupus, which many thought constituted a stint at rehab.
What's surprising about Revival is how confident it is in its non-bombastic delivery. Though far from narcoleptic, the record is content with pushing melodies above romping beats and studio flourishes. It's not completely devoid of danceable rhythms, but the majority of the songs are more suited for downtime than the dance-floor.
This brings out the best in Gomez's good-but-not-great vocals and the record's confessional lyrics. The singer sounds best when she's sounding exasperated and belting out choruses on emotional ballads.
When the record does indulge in the obligatory dance club pumpers, Gomez sounds less than enthused with the production, collapsing into tediously dramatic vocal gestures.
Opening with the electro-Latina beat of 'Body Heat', the record starts off on a familiar yet dull journey before quickly moving on to the piano-driven balladry of 'Camouflage', which, although veering closely to other radio-ready piano-driven ballads, feels like Gomez is trying to grab onto a tangible emotion as she sings 'You were mine just yesterday/ Now I have no idea who you are/ It's like you're camouflage/ It's good to see you here again/ I don't want to say goodbye'.
Aside from romantic musings, Gomez's celebrity has also resulted in lyrics such as 'The world can be a nasty place/ You know it/ I know it/ We don't have to fall from grace' from 'Kill Them With Kindness', which again, may look trite on paper, but runs well with the down tempo electro-pop track and an almost-spoken chorus.
Similarly, the baroque arrangements of 'Same Old Love' and the trip-hop beats of 'Nobody' are filled with a mix of confessional lyrics that may speak of a popstar's life but still emit identifiable ' certainly to Gomez's younger fans ' perspectives.
It's surprising how relatively-restrained the record is for a pop-star of Gomez's caliber and market.
Indeed, Revival's seeming lack of ambition gives the opportunity for a lot of the songs to stand on their two feet. Had the record fully embraced its almost naturalist roots and completely rid itself of the compulsory club tracks, it would have truly stood out.
Perhaps the record is a just positive accident. For what it is, however, Revival makes for a pleasant and engaging listen due its lower-key nature. Certainly, the next Selena Gomez record will return to pushing sales as hard as it can, as is the wont of superstar albums.