“I thought a lot about my voice. And after a year of holding on. I think it’s time to start sharing” posted Selena Gomez on Instagram, in anticipation for her latest single, released today: “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” off her first greatest hits album, For You.
Ever since her first step onto the scene, Gomez has been very private about her personal life, guarding her heart like a diamond ring, especially through her music. While songs like “Forget Forever” and “Love Will Remember” off of her amazing 2013 album Stars Dance mirrored public knowledge of her romantic misadventures, she stayed ambiguous and audiences never felt like we could get past skin deep, much like our idol’s Britney Jean. This is her first big statement to the world, even confirming herself the song was about her much publicized relationship with Justin Bieber, and the start to a new chapter in her career.
The song is undoubtedly the most intimate release the “Slow Down” singer has put out to the world. The intro to the official music video is as arresting as you could get in a pop project today. Although the video was shot over a year ago, all of it was absolutely raw in the moment, with a mic taped under the table as she looked at herself in the mirror as she recorded the intro, which Ryan Seacrest accurately describes as “powerfully, scarily vulnerable”:
“When I was on stage and I was thinking of… I know him, though. I know his heart, and I know what he wouldn’t do to hurt me. But I didn’t realize that feeling so confident, feeling so great about myself and then it just be completely shattered. By one thing. By something so stupid. But then you make me feel crazy, you make me feel like it’s my fault. I was in pain.”
This isn’t just a throwaway statement to get some publicity either, the mini-monologue is chilling to say the least, almost unnerving. She might be rambling a bit, but it shows the lack of rehearsal, the feeling of being present in the moment and speaking exactly what’s on her mind is captured before a series of black and white vignettes of a relationship that appears more than turbulent. It’s her most vulnerable effort yet, directed by Dawn Shadforth (who’s worked with Kylie Minogue and Goldfrapp), something that recalls a PG version of Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” while still remaining age-appropriate for a 22 year old: make out sessions in an empty bar seem almost eerie with the song, and her acting skills shine in scenes like the melancholy car stare down with her lover (played by Shiloh Fernandez, since we know what you’re about to ask), which suggests more than kissing.
The shots of her speaking directly to the camera with tears in her eyes feel more honest and genuine than ex-Disney peer Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” could ever hope to be. It truly is scarily vulnerable, and whether it was included for some extra views or not, it’s an incredibly bold move for an artist in her particular place in the public eye and caliber.
On the other hand, no matter how stunning she looks or how expressive her acting can be, the slow-burning video is truly just a gorgeous backdrop for the song, which is one of her most mature. Not to overshoot, but I’ve been saying that the “Love You Like A Love Song” chanteuse right now might be one of the most promising contenders for something similar to the next Britney Spears. She’s no way reached the level of game-changing, envelope-pushing classics, but she’s been putting out A-grade pop material, keeping up with trends and mastering them, while never wavering in terms of quality. “The Heart Wants What It Wants” is no exception with possibly some of her most poignant lyrics yet: “You got me scattered in pieces / Shining like stars and screaming / Lightening me up like Venus / But then you disappear and make me wait” over a #dark atmospheric track with some rhythmic urban elements. The subdued beat, created by longtime collaborators Rock Mafia, is a different road than the production-heavy dance songs she’s known for, opting to showcase her vocals and lyrics this time.
Fan of Gomez or not, “The Heart Wants What It Wants” is definitely a track worthy of a spin or two, especially in a fourth quarter that feels lacking in exciting new material. Whether you decide to convert to Selenatorism or not is up to you, but she is coming out with a selection of her best tracks, and there’s going to be another new song, “Do It,” for diehard fans. I, for one, am excited to experience this journey with Selena as she matures and becomes the woman she’s well on her way to being.
What the Heart Wants was released on Nov 6 (iTunes)
For You will be released on Nov 24 (iTunes)