Selena Gomez wills a new era of her career into existence within the first two minutes of her second solo album. “It’s my time to butterfly,” she sings on the self-care anthem “Revival.” The Gomez of this relaxed, confident pop collection butterflies with such ease that it feels like she’s revealing her true personality for the first time. Where some former child stars tack toward aggressive maturity when they reach their twenties, Gomez finds ways to transcend that cliche. Her brand of sexiness has a coy, subtle quality that never tries too hard, from the fun, flirty “Hands to Myself” to the blissed-out “Survivors” to the intoxicating “Me & the Rhythm” — a riff on the classic theme of losing yourself on the dance floor (“Everybody wants to be touched/Everybody wants to get some”) that nonetheless finds her sounding completely in control of her own euphoria.
Soaring past the harsh-though-catchy EDM beats of 2013’s Stars Dance and the shallow angst of her previous work with the pop-rock project the Scene, the former Disney star finds a new comfort zone in this album’s warm, tropical beach-pop sound. “Body Heat” brings Latin fusion into Gomez’s mix like never before and proves that she doesn’t need Zedd (the German producer behind her recent dance chart-topper “I Want You to Know”) to make a genuine club banger.
Gomez doesn’t have the vocal chops of her Disney compadres and sometime competitors Miley Cyrus and Demi Lovato, but she makes up for it here by finding a new malleability in her voice. She takes on a punk-soul Charli XCX inflection on “Same Old Love,” a highlight cowritten by XCX, and elsewhere builds on the clipped, breathy indie-pop vocals that made lead single “Good For You” a mold-breaking hit this summer. Revival is an audacious name for a 23-year-old singer’s second album, but from start to finish, Gomez earns it. This is the sound of a newly empowered pop artist growing into her strengths like never before.