|Selena Gomez on stage at Rexall Place in Edmonton on Saturday, Aug. 17, 2013.|
Being a feel-good pop tart is Gomez’s style. It fits, and it fits well.
However, Gomez’s latest album, Stars Dance, is beginning to hint at something else. It suggests something more grown up, thanks to songs with sexualized lyrics and dance beats. Gomez — or rather, the forces behind Gomez — want to make us think she’s traded in her Disney princess-patterned sweats for big girl pants (a.k.a. no pants and onesies) to transition into the realm of Rihannas and Katy Perrys. Sex sells, after all.
Selena Gomez the person and Selena Gomez the image are clashing hard. A recent article in the Toronto Star revealed just how convoluted and controlled the mainstream music machine is. The chart-topping American singer-turned-actress’s image has been carefully constructed in a laboratory, mathematically calculated to sell, sell, sell. At this point in time, they’re trying to make her a little sexier. A little older. But it’s not working. And it may never work.
The petite superstar and former Bieber squeeze dimmed the lights a few minutes early, starting the show with an out-of-this-world video flashing planets and stars. Cut to clouds, a treed boulevard and a sleeping Gomez catching some Z’s on a paper constellation.
Gomez is in a dream. In this dream, she must choose one of three doors. Of course, the door she picks leads to centre stage where the itsy-bitsy singer appears wearing a white sleeveless overcoat, a sparkly white bra top and white harem pants.
She stands in the spotlight, soaking up the screams. Then she raises her hands above her head and attempts a sexy, slinky hip swivel. Her miniature hips move maybe an inch. Either it was a purposely reserved attempt, or a sultry show just doesn’t suit her.
Does every artist have to embrace a sexualized performance persona? Can’t the powers that be see it doesn’t mesh, doesn’t mix? Can’t Gomez just hop around à la Taylor Swift and sing happy, inspiring pop tunes for the kidlets for at least a few more years?
Through the punctured veil of the performance, you could tell Gomez was uncomfortable with all the dancing. Most of it seemed called in and unnatural, especially during Birthday. But Gomez wasn’t completely floundering the entire night. At one point, she stepped out in a beautiful floor-length black gown. She stood onstage, just her and the microphone, with little accompaniment to back her trills. She smiled, her shoulders relaxed and she finally felt at home.
After that, the tween population perked up, their sequin tank tops and glittered signs shimmering in the flashing stage lights. The engine starter ended up being Love You Like A Love Song, from Gomez’s previous album When The Sun Goes Down. The decibels rose even higher when it came time for Who Says, another past hit.
Opening the show were Christina Grimmie, as well as 2012 X Factor contestants Emblem3. The latter, now signed to Simon Cowell’s SyCo Records, delivered a decent show of boy-band proportions. They joked, they danced, but the reaction was tepid and they never really managed to work the crowd into a frenzy. But we all know that’s because the tweens were saving their screams for later.