In the past few years, the Dallas music scene has been fortunate enough to watch some of its brightest stars take their rightful place in the national music conversation. The success of St. Vincent and Leon Bridges has shined a light on a scene that has long been better than it's given credit for, but there’s one hometown girl whom the hip and with-it music establishment has been all too willing to ignore: Grand Prairie native Selena Gomez.
Right now, Gomez has the No. 1 album on the Billboard Hot 200, with her album Revival having sold 113,000 copies and shot straight to the top of the charts upon its release this past week. The critics, from Rolling Stone to SPIN, are already praising the album both in terms of Gomez’s progress as an artist and its overall strength. For the first time in what feels like forever — well, for the first time since Gomez released her last album, Stars Dance, in 2013 (which also debuted at No. 1) — a Dallas musician is sitting at the top of the Billboard charts, and that feels pretty damn nice, right?
Of course, Gomez didn’t get her start busking in Deep Ellum or playing tiny club venues, which means that she’s never really felt like much of a local. That’s a legitimate argument. Instead, Gomez took a detour as a successful Disney actress before developing into a bonafide pop star. Despite that Gomez never played an intimate set at Trees before jetting off to Hollywood as a pre-teen, we’ve got a lot to be proud of.
But when we’re counting the rolls of the local-musicians-who-made-it-big who our city is vocally proud of — Bridges, St. Vincent, Sarah Jaffe, Townes Van Zandt — Gomez likely doesn’t even crack the top 10, which more and more seems like a real shame. There’s nothing wrong with being a Selena Gomez fan — “Come and Get It” was a banger, OK? — and there’s certainly nothing wrong with giving Dallas’ current most famous musician a little bit more credit for her work.
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To be sure, this album would be taken a lot more seriously if it weren’t mainstream pop music, but it really is more than that. If Gomez were recording melancholy ballads or bizarre indie-pop, it would probably get a lot more interest from the music snobs of the world. But discounting Gomez and her successes is to completely ignore Dallas’ most successful musician in recent memory. She might not have the weird aesthetic of Grammy award-winner Annie Clark, but there’s no disputing her talent.
If you do happen to listen to the entire album, you’d find that Revival is much more than a bunch of shallow love songs sung by a girl who was once naive enough to date Justin Bieber. It is, in fact, Gomez’s coming out as a woman. On the album’s title track, Gomez seems entirely aware of the changes she’s seen as an artist throughout her career. When she sings, “This isn’t just survival/It’s a revival,” she’s owning her newfound position as a grown-up artist, veering away from her peers who have a reputation for trying much too hard (looking at you, Miley) or producing a bunch of mediocre garbage to stay relevant (still looking at you, Miley).
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On “Hands to Myself,” Gomez recalls a sort of futuristic, Robyn-style sound, then transitions flawlessly into a Latin pop goddess on “Body Heat.” With tracks like "Camouflage" and "Sober," she’s demonstrated emotional range, from the average club track to melancholy ballad to bubblegum pop perfection, and this really powerful ability to easily conquer a variety of styles. To say the very least, she has totally reinvented herself from the girl who was once on Wizards Of Waverly Place.
Still, Gomez is more of a performer than a singer-songwriter type artist, but that doesn't mean she should be discounted. She doesn’t have to add hooks to a Dr. Dre record to earn her cred. (Although that's grounds for some pretty solid cred.) And she definitely doesn't have to drop acid in Oklahoma City with Wayne Coyne to create an authentic, excellent record. (OK, sorry, still looking at you, Miley.) More than that, she’s making music of this quality at 23; there’s no doubt she could continue to evolve into a legitimate pop icon in the years ahead.
It may be hard to reconcile memories of Gomez from her Disney Channel days with the 2015 Gomez, who exudes an authentic, cooler-than-thou sexiness. However awkward that might be, you’re just going to have to suck it up. Selena Gomez is a grown-ass woman, and she’s entitled to act as she damn well pleases. Fortunately, it appears that Gomez damn well pleases to record excellent pop albums.
Perhaps this is all a big misunderstanding and the muralists will get to painting Gomez’s image in Deep Ellum before the (metaphorical) ink on this post has even dried. But when we count the famous Dallas musicians we’re proud of, Selena Gomez has to make that list. With Revival — only her second solo album, remember — she’s forced even the snobbiest music nerds to recognize her as potentially the next big thing in pop music. And we’re lucky she’s from our neck of the woods.