Concert preview: Selena Gomez grows up while her music remains a work-in-progress

By Columbus Alive
From the November 21, 2013 edition

Selena Gomez, now 21, has spent much of 2013 attempting to distance herself from her Disney roots. She starred as a gun-toting, bikini-clad robber in Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers,” split from off-and-on beau Justin Bieber and released a new solo album, Stars Dance, that comes on like a PG take on the Britney Spears/Rihanna/Xtina bubblegum bump-and-grind. On the title track she moans, “Let me take you to places you’ve never been tonight” atop a heaving, electro-heavy beat, while elsewhere she sounds ready to celebrate her “Birthday” with something other than cake and ice cream.

But while certain songs are supposedly born of the singer’s experiences (“Forget Forever” is a competent-if-shallow ballad inspired by her breakup with the Biebs), Gomez exists here as little more than a cypher, never imprinting her own personality on the music. Essentially she’s become the pop version of “Quantum Leap’s” Scott Bakula, briefly adopting various guises (EDM belter, Bollywood diva, pop tart) and never establishing a deeper connection to either the music or her fans.