Being able to “Dance Again” typically comes after getting “Vulnerable” — except on the track list of Selena Gomez’s third solo album Rare, which she finally released first thing Friday (Jan. 10). The 13-track journey takes listeners through a whirlwind of emotions across various genres, from stirring ballads like the album’s Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 lead single “Lose You to Love Me” to a taste of alternative hip-hop courtesy of Kid Cudi on their sanguine “A Sweeter Place” duet.
But before Rare officially dropped, Gomez dropped by the iHeartRadio Theater in Burbank, Calif., on Thursday night to take her fans through the years-spanning recording process of her latest studio album, hear special needle drops of the new tracks and answer their thought-provoking questions.
Check out seven precious moments from Gomez’s iHeartRadio album release party below.
She takes hold of her own story and refuses to back down from what she deserves.
Rare seems to rip pages from the songstress’ diary written after breakups and during her struggles with mental health and compiles them into a narrative of trials and tribulations and the joyous triumph that follows — a sweet end note for a story she finally controls. “People had already narrated their story for me,” she told iHeartRadio personality JoJo Wright during the intimate live interview. “I wanted people to hear my side of it because I deserved that.”
And what she deserves, justified in the percussion-heavy, ambitious titular track, is her wish for everyone who listens to it. “It’s not a cocky way of saying, ‘I’m the sh–,’” she professes before apologizing for swearing on the radio. “It’s a song that says, ‘I know I don’t have it all, but I do know I deserve something special.’ And that song is exactly how I feel. I won’t tolerate being treated any other way.”
Gomez gets to reconnect to her fans through her music — especially the ones from around the globe.
For the constantly squealing devotees sitting at the front of the theater, wearing the same pink, orange and blue “Rare” T-shirt as the singer on her vintage album artwork wasn’t the only way of showing their dedication. Wright pointed out a group who flew nearly 3,500 miles from Costa Rica just to attend the album release party. “It means the world to me,” she told her international fans. It’s been almost five years since her last album Revival came out, and Gomez lamented such a long period without any music doesn’t allot for a lot of active fan-to-singer interaction outside of social media. But now she can reconnect with them via new music.
Her Hot 100 No. 1 hit “Lose You to Love Me” is her most raw song “hands down,” and follow-up single “Look at Her Now” purposefully came after.
“I was very surprised, I was very happy,” Gomez blushed about her first No. 1 song after a decade-spanning career on the Hot 100 chart. “I felt like I had gone through so much and I always wonder why I had put myself through that and I thought, ‘This is why.’ I finally get that this was the broken part and it completed everything I needed. And then I got to share that message with the world, which means they’re not alone and it’s hard for anyone to walk through something like that.”
Immediately following the emotive ballad with the empowerment anthem “Look at Her Now” was not only intentional in the moment of their releases last November, but a common theme throughout Rare: Chapters can end without being sad if you allow yourself to be happy. She disclosed that “Lose You to Love Me” was written at the beginning of 2019 and “Look at Her Now” had wrapped by the summer. “By the time we shot the video for ‘Lose You to Love Me’, the song had a completely different meaning to me, and I was happy,” Gomez said. “And then ‘Look at Her Now’, I wanted people to know that…. I don’t act in the manner that I need to always just keep getting down on myself for things that I’ve done or messed up. So I wanted people to know it’s not sad that this was a chapter ending.”
Her friends were an integral part of the process, helping write her songs, shooting her album artwork and designing her merchandise.
Gomez’s superstar songwriting pals Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter weren’t the only friends of hers who contributed to Rare. Her friend and songwriter Liz played “People You Know” for the 27-year-old singer, a familiar tale of friendships and/or relationships that come and go. “Once I heard the words, it was actually so spot on,” she commented.
Aside from the songs, she opted out of professional photo sessions for more intimate ones with photog friend Petra Collins, who she worked with on the “Fetish” music video and “Wolves” performance at the 2017 American Music Awards, to get the Polaroid cover art. “She did that shoot with me. Courtney, Connar, Aaron, Raquelle — everyone just, we pulled our pictures together,” she said about the other Rare still visuals. “My cousin Priscilla, we have memories when I’m younger, and those are all just moments that no one’s really seen.”
When a fan complimented her merch, Gomez shouted out Connar, who used her design school techniques to mock up designs that ended up becoming the basis of her clothes, which accurately reflect her obsession with colors and comfort. And to Gomez’s delight, there are sweats. “They need to be so comfortable [fans] never want to take it off,” she requested from her friend.
Gomez says she’s ready to “Dance Again” and plays the track in its entirety.
“You can be vulnerable and have all of these feelings, but now I’m ready to kind of just let loose,” she exclaimed about the album’s second track “Dance Again.” “It’s kind of cheesy, but I got my step back.” Ominous piano keys kick-started the club-ready banger dedicated to those who are ready to leave everything that’s been weighing them down on the dance floor, as mischevious “ooh” riffs are interspersed within the song’s mysterious rhythm.
She wishes Adele would cover “Lose You to Love Me.”
During the Q&A portion of the album release party, one member of the audience asked if any artist could cover any song from Rare, which song would Gomez’s artist of choice sing? “If I’m dreaming big here, really, really, really big, I would love for Adele to cover ‘Lose You to Love Me,’” she responded. When she explained how her pick would perform the song better, her fans got upset by what sounded like a put-down to herself. But Gomez assured she meant it out of awe for the British singer-songwriter’s beautifully robust vocals.
The Rare artist dishes on how she came together with 6lack for “Crowded Room” and Cudi for “A Sweeter Place.”
Gomez revealed she had been sitting on the “Crowded Room” recording for a few years. Inspired by a ritual her married friends keep, where they flash a No. 1 finger across the room to each other at any social gathering, the song required a vocal assist from a male artist, according to Gomez. “It’s a romantic song in a way, of just saying even if we’re in a crowded room, it’s only me and you,” she explained to the crowd. “Honestly, I really didn’t want any other option…. He sounds unbelievable on the song…. I am very, very grateful for 6lack.”
As for the only other song on the album with a feature, she wanted “something weird like how Cudi does.” After Gomez called the “Pursuit of Happiness” artist to request his idiosyncratic vocals and production technique, the pair had a two-day stint in the studio. “He was really cool, understanding, made me comfortable,” she gushed about him. And “A Sweeter Place” fulfills what she intended for it to: It’s without a doubt a Cudi confection (assisted by Mike Dean, according to the rapper’s Twitter), consisting of pulsating electronic drums, dreamlike gaseous humming and a weird comfort that surrounds listeners while hearing the drawn out vowels in the escapist lyrics.