Selena Gomez’s “Revival” tour stopped at Verizon Center on Saturday night, and fans looking for a memory didn’t have to settle for a T-shirt or a poster: They could also take a photo against a backdrop sponsored by Pantene. Gomez is not just a spokeswoman for the hair-care company but one of the latest proponents of the music industry’s version of “lather, rinse, repeat”: Find success with Disney, branch out into pop music, mature into “adult” artist.
Gomez is in the midst of that last step in the cycle, and she released her sophomore album, “Revival,” in October. Despite its title, topless cover photo, restrained writing and adult-oriented lyrics, the album and accompanying tour find her dipping her toe into the pool of maturity rather than doing a cannonball (or belly-flop, depending on your perspective), as Christina Aguilera did circa “Stripped” or Miley Cyrus since “Bangerz.”
“Revival” may be an over-the-top title for a second album from a 23-year-old, but Gomez has had a contentious few years: She fired her parents as managers, broke up with Justin Bieber, dealt with rumors about drug addiction and underwent chemotherapy to treat lupus.
“You’ve seen my ups, and you’ve seen my downs,” Gomez told the packed Verizon Center crowd. “Let’s just have fun, okay?”
“Revival” is plenty of fun, but it’s not a wholesale rejection of the catchy, simplistic dance-pop that Gomez has peddled since breaking through in 2009. The album is more about the evolution of pop music in general, as electronic dance music — or EDM, as it’s known — has been overtaken by more-restrained songcraft. Case in point: the versions of old singles “Love You Like a Love Song” and “Come and Get It” that Gomez performed Saturday where the burping synths of EDM-pop were replaced with hip-hop-inflected grooves.
And while she occasionally deals with adult themes, her lyrics are still marked by the clunky awkwardness of a young adult trying to seem older; for every “leave this dress a mess on the floor,” there’s a “syncopate my skin to your heart beating.”
The false maturity of “Revival” extends to her live performance, where a crew of dancers, singers and musicians do all the heavy lifting. Gomez’s voice has never been particularly impressive, and in concert, she often cedes the microphone to her backup singers. And unlike other pop stars who focus on their dance moves rather than their vocals, Gomez doesn’t really dance, either: Her repertoire is built on two-steps and wind-machine-assisted hair-flips.
But even with her weaknesses as a performer, the concert — with its giant inflatable flowers, exercise-ball dance routines and chariot rides — pleased her preteen and teenage fans, who even screamed in excitement during costume-change video interludes.
It seems that it’s only a matter of time before the final step in Gomez’s Disney princess pop-star cycle: Las Vegas residency.