My relationship with Selena Gomez & the Scene began somewhat by accident. After realizing that my celebrity crush had an album out (as does every celebrity) I decided I needed to hear it. At first I liked Selena Gomez & the Scene’s debut album Kiss And Tell in a somewhat ironic way (how hipster of me!), but then I came to the conclusion that there were a few tracks on that album that I genuinely liked, but overall was it rehashed tween pop and actually pretty bad. It was then that they put out an album that I would grow to actually love, A Year Without Rain.
Riding on the success of Kiss and Tell’s most successful single, “Naturally,” A Year Without Rain was a deeper venture into euro-dance territory, to the point where a lot of the songs were based around the electronics rather than Selena’s voice. AYWR quickly became my guilty pleasure of 2010, I just couldn’t deny it; the songs may have been cheesy, but something about them was just so fun and captivating. So when I found out the follow-up to A Year Without Rain, titled When the Sun Goes Down, was coming out this summer, I was genuinely excited for it. Unfortunately When the Sun Goes Down is a step backwards as it utilizes the electronic aspects of the album mostly to create tween pop songs, rather than to continue on with the euro-dance influences.
The album gets off to somewhat of a good start. “Love You Like a Love Song” is reminiscent of some of A Year Without Rain’s more sultry moments. As a single it works perfectly and the production strays from that of the generic tween pop, showing that Selena’s label has been taking steps towards making her more of a different artist in her genre. “Bang Bang Bang” has great production and a quite the hook, but the lyrics are borderline raunchy with “ahhs” and the references to models and new boyfriends, strange considering that it’s one of the few songs in the album whose writing credits include Selena Gomez. “Who Says” is the ideal single, and if you’ve heard it already, chances are it’s stuck in your head (whether you consider that a good thing or not). The production with the all the strings is actually quite enjoyable, but the lyrics of self-empowerment, while positive, get corny… fast.
The main problem comes with the remainder of the songs, they’re just bland and forgettable. The obligatory ballad “We Own the Night” and the semi-ballad “Hit the Lights” show that if there’s one kind of pop song that Selena can’t pull off, it’s ballads. “Whiplash” and “Middle of Nowhere” just try too hard to fit in with the top 40 norm. Although some of these songs aren’t too enjoyable there are a few pop gems, in particular “When the Sun Goes Down,” which despite the incredibly dumb lyrics has perfect production (what other pop artist samples 8-bit sounds?), and “My Dilemma,” which is energetic and a potential hit.
Most people will read this review and think “Why is this on this site,” but the truth is that pop music is as legitimate as any other genre, and there is a beauty to a perfectly constructed pop song. While the songs aren’t written by Selena herself (a few of them are) they are still songs, and for whatever reason she seems to get the best ones. This album may not be as consistent as her previous effort, and it may not be something you want other people to know you listen to, but if you’re ever looking for a set of songs to unwind and have fun to then this album has a couple of those for you. Go ahead, I won’t tell anyone.