Selena Gomez: 10 years on, a Justin Bieber-sized hangover still lingers in 'Rare', will she ever get past it?
Selena Gomez aka the elegant princess of dance-pop bops and heartfelt ballads, officially turns 28 on July 22. Besides being a successful singer, actress, producer and UNICEF ambassador, the 'Come & Get It' singer had yet another hit record in 'Rare' (2020), which released in January earlier this year. Despite coming after a sizeable five-year gap since her previous album, 'Revival' (2015), it was almost like she picked up from where she had last left off, considering all three of her solo records thus far have debuted at No 1 on the Billboard charts. Yet a lot has happened to Gomez since her last album, which in turn helped form the songs on her latest album. So much so, that she actually withdrew from the public eye for a while and used the downtime to grow and mature as a person. And a lot of that had to do with heartbreak and coming to terms with personal ordeals, something that most of her adoring fans were none the wiser to.
The star's struggles with her physical and mental health have already been well-documented in the past. After 'Revival' dropped in 2015, Gomez had to endure multiple bouts of chemotherapy and a kidney transplant after contracting Lupus and she also bravely admitted to struggling with depression, anxiety and panic attacks in the past. In April this year, she famously revealed on Miley Cyrus's 'Bright Minded' show that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which must've been doubly hard for a superstar who lives her life in the public gaze. Yet these experiences have only helped to make her stronger, as she learned to do away with many of the things that made her vulnerable.
Case in point, she gave up social media for two whole years in a bid to keep her mental health on track. As she admitted in an Apple Music interview, "There were accounts that were dissecting me, down to my body, to my face, my features, choices I've made, telling stories, and it drove me crazy, because I honestly just wanted to be like, 'None of you even know what you're talking about,' and it just destroyed me. So I stopped, and I tell every single person everything changed... When I was out of social media, I was so much happier with just me, myself, how I looked, and that helped a lot. I just needed to let my old self go. I was purging multiple different things, but it was specifically who I was then. I would like to say that this is a fresh start, and I started with this [Rare] album, but I am going to continue to just do better and do everything I can to make it great."
Which brings us to the singer Justin Bieber, who was the subject of frenzied speculation after 'Rare' released. Many Selenators viewed Gomez's poignant and pointed lyrics on songs like 'Lose You To Love Me' and 'Rare' as direct references to the turbulent relationship she shared with the Canadian pop star. Bieber, who is now happily married to Hailey Baldwin, famously dated Gomez on and off from 2010 till 2018. Their volatile relationship was filled with multiple breakups and drama-filled episodes that turned their love story into an ongoing "will they-wont they" saga for fans. In between, Gomez also had a brief relationship with another Canadian singing sensation, The Weeknd, although their relationship barely lasted a year in 2017.
Gomez admitted to NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro that she had suffered emotional abuse at the hands of Bieber and that 'Lose You To Love Me' signaled some definite closure. Although the song included lines like "You promised the world and I fell for it / I put you first and you adored it / Set fires to my forest / And you let it burn," she revealed, "It's not a hateful song, it's a song that is saying — I had something beautiful and I would never deny that it wasn't that. It was very difficult and I'm happy it's over. And I felt like this was a great way to just say, you know, it's done, and I understand that, and I respect that, and now here I am stepping into a whole other chapter."
Lyrics from the title track 'Rare' included "It feels like you don't care / Oh, why don't you recognize I'm so rare? / Always there / You don't do the same for me /That's not fair." With those empowering yet vulnerable lyrics, Gomez was clearly telling her fans to not settle for less when it came to matters of the heart. It was also a sign that she recognized her immense self-worth after her rare yet ultimately toxic relationship with Bieber. The song, 'Cut You Off', contained more references to their doomed relationship. "Gotta chop-chop all the extra weight / I've been carrying for 1.460 days / Gotta clean my slate / The truth is that I think I've had enough / Professionally messing with my trust / How could I confuse that s*** for love?" Another song, 'Vulnerable' contained the telling lyrics: "If I show you all my demons and we dive into the deep end / Would we crash and burn like every time before?"
Regarding her emotional abuse, Gomez also told NPR, "I've found the strength in it. It's dangerous to stay in a victim mentality... I had to find a way to understand it as an adult. And I had to understand the choices I was making. " As she later told Ryan Seacrest about 'Lose You To Love Me' and 'Rare', "All I know is these two songs were me wrapping up a chapter in a pretty little bow. And the rest of the album is all about where I am now and where I’m going."
And look at her now. Selena Gomez has come a long way since her Disney Channel years. She's now a stronger, wiser, independent woman who knows exactly what she wants from a relationship. In an interview with Zane Lowe, Gomez explained, "Now I have expectations where if I were to do this or if I were to give you [my love], are you strong enough?" she revealed. "Are you capable of being someone that's going to be in my life? That's how I approach things now. And I'm not being conceited, I'm saying it's actually an honor to be with me because I think I'm a great person, and I love people deeply, and I won't tolerate ever being treated the way that I had been. That's the song. It's not just me being "I'm still vulnerable." It's like, "Well, I am, but I need these things for you to get that from me."
As Gomez turns 28, she is still not dating anyone publicly, but that's guaranteed to change in the future. As she herself admitted in one of her songs, "The heart wants what it wants."