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Selena Gomez keeps it PG for girls’ night out

By Théoden Janes

This is the kind of attention to detail pop star Selena Gomez pays as she casts herself as a positive role model, despite the fact that she turned 21 in July and can behave any way she darn well pleases:

Midway through her 18-song set Sunday night at Time Warner Cable Arena, she performed “Birthday,” a song off her new album, “Stars Dance.” On a massive high-definition screen behind her, a music-video-style montage featured footage of Gomez ostensibly celebrating her birthday with friends at a wild house party – and not a single person in it was holding a drink (or anywhere near one, for that matter).

Though Gomez isn’t averse to running off and making a sex-, drugs-, and violence-fueled R-rated movie like 2012’s “Spring Breakers,” when she gets in front of fans of her music, she understands who that audience is.

And that audience, mostly, consists of girls who practically drown in the smallest-size Selena Gomez concert T-shirts. Girls who need to stand on their seats to avoid spending the entire show looking at the rear end of an adult in front of them. Girls who have parents who’ll nod their heads approvingly when Gomez says things like this:

“You trust me. Parents trust me. And I get that. Thank you. ... Every single day I get told I need to do this, and I need to be sexy, and I need to be cool. The truth is, we just need to be who we are.” Aaaaaaaand cue arm-waving girl-power anthem “Who Says.”

On the night, there was nary a profanity. Nothing came close. (Unless you consider the word “sexy” – which shows up in songs such as “Like a Champion” – to be inappropriate for most audiences. I don’t.)

She flirts harmlessly with lines, but doesn’t cross them. For the first four songs, she wore an all-white outfit that left her midriff bare and featured very short shorts under a sheer sarong; but she left the cleavage to her four female backup dancers.

During 2011 single “Whiplash,” she shook her hips seductively and played with ropes hanging from the ceiling in a way that hinted at bondage; but really, the suggestion was almost imperceptible.

As a performer, Gomez borrows from Taylor Swift (the hair-whipping and the strutting) and Beyonce (everything else). She mostly didn’t sing live – I’d swear, for instance, that the pre-recorded track she lip-synched to during “Come & Get It” was simply the studio version – but when she did, she excelled.

Ballads “Love Will Remember” and “Dream” (a Priscilla Ahn cover) were among the only songs for which she stood still, and with no choreography to hide behind, she sounded wonderful. She even blew into a harmonica briefly during the bridge on “Dream,” to nice effect.

If there’s anything to complain about, it’s that the show wasn’t loose enough. Maybe part of it is that I saw Michael Bublé in this same arena not 24 hours before; one of his strengths is his fearlessness, his willingness to go off script to give his set some character. Gomez is likable, and appears to be having fun when she’s singing and dancing, but her patter is awfully stiff.

On top of that, Bublé did a better job utilizing the gigantic HD screen for both live shots and pre-recorded animations. Sunday night’s crowd was full of cute-little-girl faces; why Gomez’s tour didn’t/doesn’t exploit that is a mystery.

But in the end, she pleased everyone and offended no one. There was no twerking, no meltdown, no desperate cry for attention. Just wholesome entertainment – and lots, and lots, and lots of screaming.

Janes: 704-358-5897
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