“I just needed to let my old self go," Selena Gomez tells Apple Music. After her last album, Revival, the superstar weathered a rocky four years during which her love life and personal health were the subject of intense media scrutiny, eventually leading her to check into a treatment center. “I purged multiple different things, but it was specifically who I was then,” she says. Hitting rock bottom revealed a new way forward: She rid her life of toxic relationships, quit social media and vowed to trust her gut on album three. Flanked by two of her most trusted collaborators and friends—pop hitmakers Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter—Gomez, now 27, wrote Rare, her third solo LP and a well-earned fresh start.
The project’s back-to-back lead singles—the gutting ballad “Lose You to Love Me” and the more celebratory “Look at Her Now”—effectively bookend the highs and lows of Gomez’s adolescence and trace her journey through recovery. “Took a few years to soak up the tears/But look at her now/Watch her go,” she sings on the latter. From then on, it’s all about release: Gomez spends the rest of Rare relishing the joy and lightness found in finally moving on. “I kickstart the rhythm/All the drama’s in remission,” she coos on the sultry club cut “Dance Again”, which casts her new-found independence as a strobe-lit night out. “I’m high off the weight off of my shoulders.” On “Fun”, she pokes fun at her health struggles by turning them into come-ons (“My kind of trouble likes your kind of trouble,” she sings to a love interest who keeps her “higher than the medication”), flipping a perceived weakness into a power source.
Crucially, Rare is more about self-love than anything—or anyone—else. Marked by playful, exuberant production and thoughtful assists from 6LACK and Kid Cudi, it feels confident, optimistic and free—as if Gomez is seeing the world with fresh eyes. She may be, but the album’s power is rooted in how far she’s come. Listen to songs like “Let Me Get Me” and “Cut You Off” and find an artist who is older, wiser, stronger and all grown up.