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Album Review

Selena Gomez began her entertainment career at Disney when she was still in the single-digit age range. Now 18, the star of Disney Channel's  Wizards of Waverly Place returns with her second album in just under a year. And as she approaches young adulthood, it's reasonable to wonder to what extent she is—or isn't—following the edgy path many (if not most) of her Mouse House peers have taken.

Answer: To her credit, Selena seems to understand that it's a potentially perilous journey, especially as it relates to throngs of young fans who might be quick to emulate their role model. "I'm fully aware of my audience," Selena recently told the Orlando Sentinel. "If a little girl tells her mom, 'I want to see the new Selena Gomez movie' or 'buy the new Selena Gomez CD,' I would hope that their parents could say 'absolutely' without having to second-guess it or second-guess me."

Which begs the next obvious question: Is any second-guessing needed when it comes to A Year Without Rain?

Positive Elements

Spiritual Content

Sexual Content

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Crude or Profane Language

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Pro-social Content

Love is in full bloom on two tracks, especially the title cut. "I'm missing you so much," Selena sings. "Can't help it, I'm in love/A day without you is like a year without rain." Similarly ecstatic emotions fill "Off the Chain" ("A thousand church bells ringing/I can hear angels singing/When you call my name/ … And you make me feel amazing/And I can't explain"). Such hyperbolic exclamations of teen love, however, are tempered by mature moments in which Selena says she hasn't rushed recklessly into this relationship ("I'm not the type who gets crazy for someone/ … Guarded my heart like a diamond ring/But your love, your love changes everything").

Three other songs deliver positive messages about striking an optimistic, hopeful stance amid life's challenges. "Intuition" describes Selena's response to tear-inducing hard days: "I made a choice to be the best that I could ever be/Gotta stay positive, ignore the negativity/ … Everything's gonna be OK." That attitude carries over onto "Live Like There's No Tomorrow" ("Take a leap of faith and hope you fly/Feel what it's like to be alive/Give it all that we've got/And lay it all on the line"). And "Spotlight" tells young women not to get depressed by little imperfections, such as hair not working quite right or jeans that are suddenly a little too tight ("Throw that mirror away/Oh, you know it's gonna be OK/ … We all got something we don't like/Even Angelina Jolie").

Moments on "Sick of You" indicate the singer is regaining her emotional equilibrium and self-respect after a hard breakup. ("I quit your game/It's so see-through/You know I'm too good for you/ … Track the baggage, and I'll be fine"). "Ghost of You" indicates that another broken relationship may have taught Selena some hard lessons about trusting too easily ("And I'll never be like I was the day I met you/Too naive?/Yes, I was/Boy, that's why I let you in."

Objectionable Content

The techno-fueled "Rock God" (a song Katy Perry penned and Selena reportedly worked hard to get on the album), metaphorically compares the allure of rock 'n' roll and its heroes to a kind of spiritual rebellion. "Preacher man walked into the club and he said, he said/'Hey girl, can't you walk a mile and not stray?'" Selena responds, "Father, I'm torn, and I'm selling my soul to the rhythm, the beat and the bass/'Cuz I can't confess my rock 'n' roll ways/'Cuz I'm so possessed with the music." The chorus adds, "I can't stop my feet from dancin' to the sound of his drum/Oh no, I fell in love with a rock god/I can't keep my hips from swayin' to his sweet melody." In the end, Selena sings, "I'm not looking back/And I'm sorry if I left the angels crying over me."

Selena gets a little flushed when the right guy shows up on "Summer's Not Hot." ("I jumped in the pool/'Cause you're so hot that I gotta get cooled off.") "Round and Round" finds her returning to a duplicitous dude whom she can't seem to stay away from.

Summary Advisory

Attraction and bliss, jerks and breakups: Selena Gomez's bouncy, high-energy, pop-rock songs cover the teen love bases. Washington Post reviewer Allison Stewart said of her second effort, "On Rain, Gomez is positioned as a younger, more chaste incarnation of Katy Perry."

Let's hope the chaste part holds. Because apart from Perry's connection to "Rock God," and a few low-cut tops Selena wears for album photos and the video for "Round and Round," there's little else on A Year Without Rain that answers our opening question about second-guesses in the negative. If anything, the lyrics here are slightly less flirty than last year's Kiss & Tell.

Selena doesn't offer fans any spiritual guidance—as one might hope given a liner note dedication that reads, "Thanks to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." She opts instead to sing about the joys of young love while encouraging listeners to keep their chins up when the going gets tough.

Plot Summary

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Additional Comments/Notes

Episode Reviews

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