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New Selena Gomez effort ‘Rare’ catchy but lacking

Not quite the bold artistic statement needed to fully catapult singer to adult stardom



Rare album review, gay news, Washington Blade
Selena Gomez’s new album ‘Rare’ is catchy and well produced but not quite the breakthrough it could have been. (Photo courtesy Interscope)

It’s a bit like taking the temperature of pop music of the new decade. The first major pop release of 2020, Selena Gomez is out with her third studio album entitled “Rare.” It’s a well-leveraged, solid composition. The album contains a number of good songs, even if it fails to take any serious risks.

On the pop music scene, Selena Gomez is in good company. Like Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, the former Disney Channel star (which hovers somewhere between a hurdle and an asset) has had a number of hits since the conclusion show “Wizards of Waverly Place” where she played the lead as Alex. With Disney Plus’s entry into the streaming world, Disney Channel stardom is likely to still give childhood celebrities like Gomez a boost.

But disentangling oneself from adolescent stardom and finding a more adult demographic is something many young artists struggle with. This is even true for performers performers like Niall Horan and Louis Tomlinson from One Direction, who have spent several years seeking after a more adult demographic. But this is a well-worn path for artists like Gomez. Miley Cyrus began transitioning to an older target demographic with her 2009 “The Time of Our Lives,” which featured the endlessly played “Party in the U.S.A.” But it wasn’t until her the following album “Can’t Be Tamed” that the break felt complete.

The case of Gomez is slightly different, and she released several albums with her dance-pop band Selena Gomez & the Scene. “Love You Like A Love Song” is perhaps still their most popular. Shortly after the group disbanded in 2012, Gomez’s first solo album, “Stars Dance,” was released in 2013. And it was met by immediate commercial success, landing at the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200. And her 2015 follow-up album “Revival” quickly followed suit, with singles “Good for You (featuring A$AP Rocky)” and “Same Old Love,” making her something of a pop force to be reckoned with. And her 2016 duet with Charlie Puth “We Don’t Talk Anymore” has remained a fixture of radio play. But “Rare” is the singer’s first full album release in nearly five years.

“Rare” is the third and titular single released from the album, cut and balanced with an eye toward radio play. While there is nothing vocally extraordinary going on — Gomez has this in common with Cyrus and Lovato — the production value is high and everything feels very polished.

But the heart of an album is so rarely found in the singles, which are more often than not sort of one-offs. Songs like “Dance Again,” with its snappy baseline and dance rhythm, better capture of the aesthetic of the whole: a somewhat darkly colored, dance pop album with a glossy finish. “Kinda Crazy” pops in a mid-tempo groove and features very tasteful instrumentation: a touch of piano, a jazzy guitar riff that sets the tone and even horns. The singer’s breathy vocals hover just slightly above the mix. It’s one of the most nicely balanced pop songs in recent memory and a testament to the attention to detail that Gomez brings to her music. And it would be remiss not to mention “Cut You Off,” a delightful Saturday morning breakfast-bop and relentless earworm. Humorously, the chorus repeats over and over: “So I gotta get/you out my head now.”

The second single, “Look at Her Now,” is more evidence of the masterful production and how far it take one in today’s pop music scene. Artists like Kesha (whose new album drops at the end of the month) were pioneers in this regard. And phenomenal production covers myriad other sins. But “Look at Her Now” is the pop equivalent of a nursery rhyme when you peel back the smooth synth hooks: “Of course she was sad/but now she’s glad she dodged a bullet/took a few years to soak up the tears/but look at her now, watch her go.” And the chorus drones on the annoying “Mm-mm-mm, mm-mm-mm, mm-mm,” nearly as bad as Justin Bieber’s latest “Yummy.”

That leaves us with the lead single, “Lose You To Love Me,” which peaked at No. 1 on Billboard back in November. It stands apart from the rest of the album as a slower break-up anthem. It’s the only track to really showcase Gomez’s vocal power and it will ultimately make for an easy dance remix (or a dozen). Songs like it have guaranteed the commercial success of “Rare,” and in turn Gomez’s staying power. But I was hoping for a little something more from this album. It is a new decade, after all.


Music & Concerts

Musical icons and newer stars to rock D.C. this spring

Brandi Carlile, Bad Bunny, Nicki Minaj, and more headed our way



Brandi Carlile plays the Anthem this month.

Bands and solo artists of all different genres are visiting D.C. this spring. Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will team up to perform at the Wolf Trap in June, and girl in red will play at the Anthem in April. Some artists and bands aren’t paying a visit until the summer, like Janet Jackson and Usher, but there are still plenty of acts to see as the weather warms up. 


Brandi Carlile plays at the Anthem on March 21; Arlo Parks will perform at 9:30 Club on March 23; Girlschool will take the stage at Blackcat on March 28.


Nicki Minaj stops in D.C. at Capital One Arena as part of her North American tour on April 1; Bad Bunny plays at Capital One Arena on April 9 as part of his Most Wanted tour; girl in red performs at the Anthem on April 20 and 21; Brandy Clark plays at the Birchmere on April 25; Laufey comes to town to play at the Anthem on April 25 and 26. 


Belle and Sebastian play at the Anthem on May 2; Chastity Belt performs at Blackcat on May 4; Madeleine Peyroux stops at the Birchmere on May 5; The Decemberists play at the Anthem on May 10; the rock band Mannequin Pussy performs at the Atlantis on May 17 and 18; Hozier plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 17 as part of the Unreal Unearth tour. 


Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight will sing soulful melodies at Wolf Trap on June 8; Joe Jackson performs at the Lincoln Theatre on June 10; the Pixies and Modest Mouse are teaming up to play at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 14; Maggie Rogers plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 16 as part of The Don’t Forget Me tour; Brittany Howard headlines the Out & About Festival at Wolf Trap on June 22; Sarah McLachlan plays at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 27; Alanis Morissette performs at Merriweather Post Pavilion on June 29 and 30

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Music & Concerts

Grammys: Queer women and their sisters took down the house

Taylor Swift won Album of the Year



When the late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asked when there will be enough women on the Supreme Court, her answer was simple: Nine. She stated: “I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” RBG did not attend the Grammy’s last night, but her spirit sure did. Women, at long last, dominated, ruled and killed the night.

Cher, in song a decade ago, declared that “this is a woman’s world,” but there was little evidence that was true, Grammy, and entertainment awards, speaking. In 2018, the Grammys were heavily criticized for lack of female representation across all categories and organizers’ response was for women to “step up.”

Be careful what you wish for boys.

The biggest star of the 2024 Grammys was the collective power of women. They made history, they claimed legacy and they danced and lip sang to each other’s work. Standing victorious was Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA (the most nominated person of the year), Lainey Wilson, Karol G, boygenius, Kylie Minogue and Victoria Monét. Oh, yes, and powerhouse Taylor Swift, the superstar from whom Fox News cowers in fear, made history to become the first performer of any gender to win four Best Album of the Year trophies.

In the throng of these powerful women stand a number of both LGBTQ advocates and queer identifying artists. Cyrus has identified as pansexual, SZA has said lesbian rumors “ain’t wrong,” Phoebe Bridgers (winner of four trophies during the night, most of any artist) is lesbian, Monét is bi and Eilish likes women but doesn’t want to talk about it. Plus, ask any queer person about Swift or Minogue and you are likely to get a love-gush.

Women power was not just owned by the lady award winners. There were the ladies and then there were the Legends. The first Legend to appear was a surprise. Country singer Luke Combs has a cross-generational hit this year with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” When originally released, the song was embraced as a lesbian anthem. When performing “Fast Car,” surprise, there was Chapman herself, singing the duet with Combs. The rendition was stunning, sentimental and historic.

Chapman, like many of the night’s female dignitaries, has not been public with her sexuality. Author Alice Walker has spoken of the two of them being lovers, however.

The legend among legends of the night, however, was the one and only Joni Mitchell. Not gay herself, she embodies the concept of an LGBTQ icon, and was accompanied by the very out Brandi Carlile on stage. On her website, Mitchell’s statement to the LGBTQ community reads, “The trick is if you listen to that music and you see me, you’re not getting anything out of it. If you listen to that music and you see yourself, it will probably make you cry and you’ll learn something about yourself and now you’re getting something out of it.”

Mitchell performed her longtime classic “Both Sides Now.” The emotion, insight and delivery from the now 80-year old artist, survivor of an aneurism, was nothing short of profound. (To fully appreciate the nuance time can bring, check out the YouTube video of a Swift lookalike Mitchell singing the same song to Mama Cass and Mary Travers in 1969.) In this latest rendition, Mitchell clearly had an impact on Meryl Streep who was sitting in the audience. Talk about the arc of female talent and power.

That arc extended from a today’s lady, Cyrus, to legend Celine Dion as well. Cyrus declared Dion as one of her icons and inspirations early in the evening. Dion appeared, graceful and looking healthy, to present the final, and historic, award of the night at the end of the show.

Legends did not even need to be living to have had an effect on the night. Tributes to Tina Turner and Sinead O’Conner by Oprah, Fantasia Barrino-Taylor and Annie Lennox respectively, proved that not even death could stop these women. As Lennox has musically and famously put it, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.”

Even the content of performances by today’s legends-in-the-making spoke to feminine power. Eilish was honored for, and performed “What Was I Made For?,” a haunting and searching song that speaks to the soul of womanhood and redefinition in today’s fight for gender rights and expression, while Dua Lipa laid down the gauntlet for mind blowing performance with her rendition of “Houdini” at the top of the show, Cyrus asserted the power of her anthem “Flowers” and pretty much stole the show.

Cyrus had not performed the song on television before, and only three times publicly. She declared in her intro that she was thrilled over the business numbers the song garnered, but she refused to let them define her. As she sang the hit, she scolded the audience, “you guys act like you don’t know the words to this song.” Soon the woman power of the room was singing along with her, from Swift to Oprah.

They can buy themselves flowers from now on. They don’t need anyone else. Cyrus made that point with the mic drop to cap all mic drops, “And I just won my first Grammy!” she declared as she danced off stage.

Even the squirmiest moment of the night still did not diminish the light of women power, and in fact, underscored it. During his acceptance of the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, Jay-Z had a bone to pick with the Grammy voters. He called out the irony that his wife Beyoncé had won more Grammys than any other human, but had never won the Best Album of the Year. Yeah, what’s with that?

But then, it brought additional context ultimately to the fact that the winner of the most Grammys individually … is a woman. And to the fact that the winner of the most Best Album of the Year awards … is a woman.

Hopefully this was the night that the Grammys “got it.” Women are the epicenter of The Creative Force.

Will the other entertainment awards get it soon as well? We can hope.

Most importantly, in a political world where women’s healthcare is under siege. Will the American voters get it?

A little known band named Little Mix put it this way in their 2019 song “A Woman’s World.”

“If you can’t see that it’s gotta change
Only want the body but not the brains
If you really think that’s the way it works
You ain’t lived in a woman’s world

Just look at how far that we’ve got
And don’t think that we’ll ever stop…”

From Grammy’s mouth to the world’s ear.

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Music & Concerts

Janet Jackson returning to D.C, Baltimore

‘Together Again Tour’ comes to Capital One Arena, CFG Bank Arena



Janet Jackson is coming back to D.C. this summer.

Pop icon Janet Jackson announced this week an extension of her 2023 “Together Again Tour.” A new leg of the tour will bring Jackson back to the area for two shows, one at D.C.’s Capital One Arena on Friday, July 12 and another at Baltimore’s CFG Bank Arena on Saturday, July 13.  

Tickets are on sale now via TicketMaster. LiveNation announced the 2023 leg of the tour consisted of 36 shows, each of which was sold out. The 2024 leg has 35 stops planned so far; R&B star Nelly will open for Jackson on the new leg. 

Jackson made the tour announcement Tuesday on social media: “Hey u guys! By popular demand, we’re bringing the Together Again Tour back to North America this summer with special guest Nelly! It’ll be so much fun!”

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