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Review: Selena Gomez a pop star in progress

Nearly 7,000 fans watch as Selena Gomez performs at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Wednesday.

LUIS SANTANA | Times

Nearly 7,000 fans watch as Selena Gomez performs at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Wednesday.

TAMPA

Selena Gomez is the Un-Miley, the Reformed Rihanna, a former Mouse House girl who has rocketed up the pop charts all while maintaining a stable relationship with her pants. As a singer, an actress ("Spring Breakers," yo!), a multimedia multihyphenate, she's a clothed, well-behaved success.

In other words: a rare breed.

But as her Wednesday show at the Tampa Bay Times Forum proved, Selena, for all her likable charms, has neither the rock-star charisma nor the crowd numbers of Miley or Rihanna.

She had no use for profanity or tongue-wagging during her 80-minute set; her sparkly outfits were no racier than Wonder Woman's.

But sadly, these days it pays to ride a wrecking ball in the buff.

The venue was pretty much halved, the stage pushed up to somewhere around center ice, as a smallish crowd of 6,988 calmly rah-rah'd Justin Bieber's 21-year-old ex.

She focused on synthetic new album Stars Dance, kicking her old Disney-era tunes to the curb and shoehorning in a cover of Katy Perry's Roar, a desperate ploy to piggbyback the hottest song on the radio.

The kids liked her just fine, and with good reason. She's a naturally sexy dancer, and the wattage of her smile could light nations.

Plus a few of her hits — feel-good Who Says, the stuttering fun of Love You Like a Love Song — are catchy gems. Her main stage was flashy enough, plus an S-shaped second stage snaked out into the crowd, allowing her to high-five lots of fans, which she did more than a dude running for mayor.

But do the kids LOVE her? Not so sure about that.

At one point, Gomez borrowed her best pal Taylor Swift's "Wonder Gaze" look, that wide-eyed, is-this-really-happening gawk into the crowd. But whereas the masses go bonkers for Tay-Tay, they politely cheered Gomez, someone they've known since she first appeared on the Disney Channel's Wizards of Waverly Place.

Backed by eight dancers and a six-piece band — including two singers who deserve a raise — Gomez had all manner of help with her vocals.

Her microphone was definitely on, though, allowing her to deliver such aw-shucks lines as "I've only known how to be who I am" and "God made each and every one of us to be exactly who we are." Then she blew through yet another song, perhaps the generic pound of Write Your Name or B.E.A.T.

The requisite confetti and streamers were ignited for the encores: the ubiquitous but still delightful Come & Get It and blah new club banger Slow Down. Selena waved and smiled and slapped hands and did her flirty shadow-boxing dance moves, a class act until the end.

As a role model, she was a dream. As a musician, she was average. Here's hoping, for the sake of the planet, she keeps getting better at both.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com.

Review: Selena Gomez a pop star in progress 10/30/13 [Last modified: Thursday, October 31, 2013 9:13am]
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