Rare by Selena Gomez: Top 5

I. Love. Selena. Gomez. When I think of her, I think of beauty and grace and compassion and strength and growth and being human. I saw people years ago complain when she received Woman of the Year (or something like that) that she hadn’t gone through as many struggles as other female artists, such as Ariana Grande (who I also adore), and I also think people complain that she is not as strong a vocalist as a lot of other pop singers out there, but this girl has been through so much. I feel empowered just knowing that someone who has been through as much as she has in the past decade was able to put out a beautiful album like Rare. I was stoked to start listening, and I wasn’t disappointed. In track order, here are my top 5 tracks from Rare.

1. Dance Again

This song is so fun! I wasn’t big fan of it initially (I tend to prefer ballads/mid-tempo songs that are more rich in content than bangerzzzz) but I’ve come to love that this song is about liberation and boldness in vulnerability. The different parts of the songs complement each other so well, and it reminds me a bit of Gomez’ Stars Dance era, which I loved as a teenager.

Favorite lyric: “I kickstart the rhythm / All the trauma’s in remission / No, I don’t need permission” (My friend Jamie says this makes her feel like she’s on the prowl when she listens to it and I can’t agree more)

Favorite musical moment: The slapping bass in the chorus is so much fun, and I really like the harmonies in the second half of the second pre-chorus.

2. Lose You To Love Me

Man, oh man. This song.

:(

I know some people who are tired of this track, but I think it’s a really important benchmark in Gomez’ musical career. She doesn’t try to jam-pack everything from the past decade into a song about a person she was with, on and off, for eight years—and what results is a beautiful, simple goodbye letter. In “Lose You To Love Me,” Gomez leaves everything out on the table. There are subtle references to her past lover throughout the song:

  • She also talks about dancing in “Love Will Remember,” which was also about Bieber.
  • The word “purpose” in the line, “Set fire to my purpose,” could refer to Bieber’s 2015 album Purpose.
  • Two months you replaced us” could point to no other person, as Bieber quickly moved onto current wife Hailey Bieber just two months after he and Gomez called it quits.

“LYTLM” reminds me a lot of “Issues” by Julia Michaels because I think it’s very similar in structure/buildup—and you can’t deny that the plucked strings are reminiscent of that song, too—which makes sense because Michaels was one of the biggest collaborating forces on Rare. I don’t know if that’s something that I like, but that’s what I’m thinking of. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful and well-written song in my opinion.

Favorite lyric:In two months, you replaced us / Like it was easy / Made me think I deserved it / In the thick of healing” tied with “And now the chapter is closed and done / And now it’s goodbye, it’s goodbye for us

Favorite musical moment: I love the harmonies on “In two months, you replaced us,” in the second verse.

3. Vulnerable

I revisit this track a lot. I appreciate that this song comes out of learning lessons from years of trying to people-please. It’s something I definitely relate to (I have a theory that Gomez and I are both Enneagram 2's). Gomez knows that she has a lot that she can and wants to give to a potential lover, or even a potential friend, and after the past decade, which was filled with on and off heartbreak and gaining/losing close people in her life, she wants to be wise about the next person she gives her heart to. I respect this message a lot and I 100% agree with Gomez when she says that vulnerability is strength.

Favorite lyric: Probably tied between “If I was the greatest thing to happen to you, would you know it?” and the whole pre-chorus:

“If I show you all my demons, and we dive into the deep end
Would we crash and burn like every time before?
I would tell you all my secrets, wrap your arms around my weakness
If the only other option’s letting go,
I’ll stay vulnerable”

Favorite musical moment: I love when she belts in the last chorus—it’s a great contrast between the whisper-singing she does for a lot of the album.

4. People You Know

I love this one, too. As someone who’s very aware of my relationships, and how people have come closer and drifted over the years, I really relate to the lyrics in this song. I think the production on this is fantastic; there are so many different textures. What I love most about this track, though, is how the slight anger/bitterness in the pre-chorus seems to dissolve into a sense of overall stillness and acceptance in the chorus.

Favorite lyric: Selena’s favorite lyric is “I never know when enough is enough” in the second verse, but I really like the first two lines (“You were runnin’ through me like water / Now the feeling’s leavin’ me dry”). I also like the whole chorus:

“We used to be close, but people can go
From people you know to people you don’t
And what hurts the most is people can go
From people you know to people you don’t”

5. A Sweeter Place (feat. Kid Cudi)

This is such a nice way to end the album. It’s sort of ethereal? For some reason, I imagine walking in the sky somehow, surrounded by clouds, when I listen to this song. “A Sweeter Place” is a great way to wrap up this autobiographical album of Gomez’s—in the past four years, she’s dealt with lupus, mental health struggles severe enough to have her checked into rehab, a life-saving kidney transplant that ironically almost killed her, and a devastating breakup, amongst, I’m sure, plenty of other changes in her life that aren’t privy to the public. It’s only fitting that the artist featured on this track is Kid Cudi, who can relate to some of what Gomez underwent, as he also checked himself into rehab to receive support for his mental health. I’m proud of her for still standing, and being able to write this song, after one heck of a decade.

Favorite lyric:I can’t believe I can be loud / Holdin’ hands with the darkness and knowing my heart is allowed” is probably one of my favorite lines of the entire album.

Favorite musical moment: I love the melody of the verses and chorus.

Honorable Mention: Rare

What a bold and empowering opener to Gomez’s first album in four years. I don’t love it as much as my top 5, but it’s a lot of fun, and clearly important to Gomez because it’s the title track.

Favorite lyric:Saw us getting older/ Burnin’ toast in the toaster / My ambitions were too high” tied with “I don’t have it all / I’m not claiming to / But I know that I’m special

Favorite musical moment: I really like the melody of the bridge, and I like that again, it’s a departure from her usual whisper-singing.

Closing Thoughts

This is a delightful and honest pop record, and a great way to kick of 2020. Like I’ve said, I am really proud of Gomez for not only releasing Rare, but for waiting for exactly the right time to drop the album, most likely despite pressure from her team and maybe even her fans to release it earlier. I think Gomez plays to her strengths very well here (Billie Eilish may be known for her whisper-singing nowadays, but I—and this may be an unpopular opinion—think that in that regard, Gomez walked so that Eilish could run). She doesn’t try to be anything she’s not on this album. Like she says on “Look At Her Now,” her struggles have never cut her down so much that she’s can’t get back up; she’s only human and becoming more of a woman.

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Lover of Jesus, music, and people. Discovering how to better analyze and appreciate music one track at a time.

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Cat Cheng

Cat Cheng

Lover of Jesus, music, and people. Discovering how to better analyze and appreciate music one track at a time.

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