Nov. 22--Word is that Selena Gomez no longer answers reporters' questions about her former boyfriend, Justin Bieber. It's easy to understand why, because nobody wants to be defined by their ex, especially if he turned into a creep like the Bieb. But the 21-year-old Gomez, who headlined Minneapolis' Target Center on Thursday night, is also refusing to speak publicly about her onetime Disney peer, Miley Cyrus.
If anything, Gomez should be trumpeting herself as the anti-Miley, a pop star who keeps her tongue inside her mouth and her private areas fully covered. As she proved during the brisk 75-minute show, Gomez has grown up some -- some! -- since she played Cyrus' rival on "Hannah Montana." But unlike many others in the business, Gomez seems to understand her audience is still pretty young, and there's something to be said about letting kids remain kids.
The Texas native entered the business at 10 when she appeared on "Barney and Friends." She was already a seasoned pro by the time she hit "Hannah Montana," which led to her own show, "Wizards of Waverly Place." In the years since, Gomez has pursued both acting and music, selling MP3s to the Radio Disney crowd (and their moms). As such, Gomez's concert kept the tween-aged, mostly female, crowd both screaming and swooning.
As those in the audience born in the 20th century quickly realized, Gomez's performance felt like early Britney Spears, just with all the corners and sharp edges sandblasted smooth. Her current album, "Stars Dance," delves into electronic pop and hip-hop and she ably replicated the numbers on stage, from the dancehall-inspired "Like a Champion" to the taut "B.E.A.T.," complete with Gomez rapping over the top. "Come and Get It" sounded like a sanitized Rihanna, not too surprising given that it was written and produced by the same team behind RiRi smashes like "Don't Stop the Music" and "Diamonds."
Gomez referenced Bieber with a brief video montage of televised gossip mongers and Internet headlines that didn't mention the diminutive Canadian by name. She also crooned the sad ballad "Love Will Remember," a song she has said was influenced by her ex, even though she didn't actually write the lyrics herself.
Elsewhere in the show, Gomez introduced her self-empowerment anthem "Who Says" with a brief monologue about bullying and being yourself, the sort of thing Taylor Swift used to do in concert back in her earlier days. (Swift has since replaced those pep talks with extended pauses where she stares out into the cheering crowd with her best "What, me?" look.)
The oddest moment of the night also may provide a hint about the direction Gomez may take in the future. In stark contrast to all the club-ready beats and electronic flourishes, she slowed things down to a crawl to cover "Dream," a sleepy, alt-country number written by the Norah Jones-esque singer/songwriter Priscilla Ahn. Backed by a subtle steel guitar, Gomez looked happier than she did the rest of the night, and even pulled out a harmonica midway through the song. If that's Gomez's idea of growing up, she's worth keeping an eye on in the future.
Pop music critic Ross Raihala can be reached at 651-228-5553. Follow him at Twitter.com/RossRaihala.
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