NEW JERSEY — If you're a teenager in 2016, there's no bigger on-the-scene pop darling to come from the Disney machine than Selena Gomez. With a past that recalls an equally famous former flame, a lengthy resume with notably acting notches and a discography filled with delicious pop earworms, the 23-year-old singer took her most transformative album to date, the ambiguously titled Revival, on the road earlier this year, courtesy of the 80-date "Revival World Tour," and made her way to Newark, New Jersey on Thursday night (June 2).
Backed by opening acts like former "X Factor" alum Bea Miller and the Joe Jonas-fronted DNCE, the worldwide trek brought the pop princess' latest LP to the forefront, further emphasizing Gomez's growth as a woman. Over the course of 70 minutes, she razzled and dazzled with a collection of new songs like her latest single "Hands To Myself," cover material in the form of the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" and even an unreleased track called "Feel Me" for a fairly minimal (but effective) pop production.
Around 9:20 p.m., the chants for the singer's name hit an all-time high and the closing notes of Calvin Harris and Rihanna's "This Is What You Came For" from the arena's sound system only meant one thing: Selena Gomez was set to hit the stage.
For her intro, the singer posed behind a curtain with flickering lights as she brought the Prudential Center to its feet with the opening portion of "Revival," the first number on the LP of the same name. And if you found yourself surprised by that decision, then you clearly haven't been paying attention.
"I just want people to feel in their own right that these should be conversations that should be had. It's easy to have a great beat, talk about going out, let's go out, it's going to be fun, but this record should start conversations," she told iHeartRadio of the album last fall. "I genuinely think 'Kill Em With Kindness', 'Revival', 'Rise', 'Survivors' ... These are all things that I would want to encourage people to find within themselves. Listen to it with your girls. Find whatever it is you're feeling, and interpret it for you. This is for everyone. This isn't just my album."
It's a theme, message and, more importantly, declaration that has remained consistent in her recent years post-Bieber. As she ventured through the set with songs from the past and present, it was clear that Selena was just like any other coming of age woman. She had done some growing up, some self-reflection and had a, ahem, revival of sorts. This album, maybe even this tour, was proof of that incarnation.
From her 2015 smash "Same Old Love" to older hits like "Who Says" and "Love You Like A Love Song" and even revamped versions of "Come and Get It" and "Good For You," it was an ideal night in Selenatopia. Throw in beaming light globes from the ceiling, oversized stage roses, costume changes, ginormous LED projection screens and you had all the makings of a pop show in 2016.
"My next song I'm going to sing for you is a song that I recorded when I was 16," she said of her 2011 self-empowerment anthem, "Who Says," mid-set. "It's funny because then being 16 and now being 23, I actually feel like I need this song now more than back then."
And just like that, we were reminded that even with Revival under her belt, Selena's still a work in progress. After offering the crowd a Hillsong Worship cover of "Transfiguration, "Me & My Girls" and even her Zedd collaboration, "I Want You to Know," it was time for her to bring it full circle with an all-too-appropriate set closer: a remixed rendition of "Revival." Because, let's face it, who says you can't have more than one stage of a revival?
Selena Gomez's "Revival World Tour" is scheduled to hit Verizon Center in Washington, D.C. on June 4th. Tickets are currently on sale.
Photo: Rachel Kaplan for iHeartRadio