Something in Selena Gomez's pop formula is nicely soft-spoken and mysterious.
Something about Selena Gomez's recent single "Good for You" is not precisely what it seems. It appears to be about a woman fantasizing about showing her best side to a lover: "Gonna wear that dress you like -- so tight," she sings. "Let me show you how proud I am to be yours. Make you never want to leave." With its pendulum-swing rhythm, swirling keyboard atmospherics and affirming A$AP Rocky rap ("You look good, girl"), Gomez inhabits the song in her soft-spoken and sexy voice like she's keeping a secret. Is this total subversion to another person hiding some other agenda? Empowerment? Sarcasm?
The rest of the album by the 23-year-old former Disney star divulges a few clues. "Revival" is so named because Gomez was tired of scrutiny about her weight, her former relationship with singer Justin Bieber and other growing-up-in-public issues. No longer is she recording for Disney's Hollywood Records or letting record producers fully control her ideas. "I'm so sick of that same old love," she sings on "Same Old Love," "my body's had enough." The album is frequently dark and ominous, full of torch songs, with just enough stylish electronic dance music synths and upbeat melodies to enliven the mood.
There is pop formula here -- Gomez hires Swedish hitmaker Max Martin for crucial noises at the end of the lively "Hands to Myself," and songwriter-with-attitude-for-hire Charli XCX contributed her share of "Same Old Love" from a remote location. But Gomez is appealingly desperate and hungry, and this quality transcends the most familiar-sounding material. The finale, "Rise," contains a gospel chorus, whooping and a spoken-word prayer, a sort of mini-"Man in the Mirror" without quite as much to say.