Considering that Selena Gomez has been dating/not dating -- who can keep track? -- Justin Bieber for years now and her best friend is Taylor Swift, you would think she would know a bit more about playing to her musical strengths.
After all, "Stars Dance" (Hollywood) is her fourth album and, though she has announced her plans to focus on acting, she should have picked up more musical knowledge than this collection shows. It's actually incredible how many different musical styles Gomez tries that really don't suit her. The opening track, "Birthday," is a decent song, but it doesn't work for Gomez, who can't handle the sassy, cheerleader-like banter well. On "Champion," she ill-advisedly adopts what sounds like a Jamaican accent. She channels Ke$ha on the chorus of "B.E.A.T." but can't keep it up for the whole song.
More troubling, though, is how often her producers think Gomez's voice sounds best highly processed and flattened into anonymity, especially on "Write Your Name" and "Music Feels Better."
Of course, there are a few things Gomez has picked up from her pals. The voice mail at the start of "Love Will Remember" -- which may or may not be Bieber telling her, "You are my princess" -- is a savvy way of drawing attention to what is her best performance and will likely be the album's biggest hit.
"Stars Dance" has its moments, as the singles "Come & Get It" and "Slow Down" show, but mostly it feels halfhearted and too unfocused for a franchise player like Gomez.
THE GRADE C-
BOTTOM LINE Prefabricated pop, designed to be bland