Breaking out of the Disney Channel scene can prove to be challenging when trying to identify as a mature, independent artist, but it appears that Selena Gomez, like ex-labelmate Demi Lovato, is successfully following the paths of Ariana Grande and Miley Cyrus—both of whom migrated from kid-TV stardom to the pop charts. 

During Gomez’s tenure with DMG, the Hollywood label had a major hand in developing her into the A-list recording artist she is today, with sales of 2.8m albums and 18.1m tracks, while helping her accrue a massive fan base (she’s garnered more than 2.7 billion total video views and 6.9m subscribers to her YouTube channel, as well as 33.4m Twitter followers). 

Gomez had reached the end of her Hollywood contract in the spring of 2014, which is when she decided to ditch her management team and sign with Aleen Kesheshian and Zack Morgonroth of Brillstein Entertainment Partners, a heavyweight in the film-and-TV sector; among her longtime clients are Jennifer Aniston, Natalie Portman, Mark Ruffalo, Gwyneth Paltrow and Laura Linney. She also cleaned the slate on the agency side, jettisoning CAA’s Christian Carrino and joining Sara Newkirk (Lady Gaga) at WME. The next crucial step was locating her next label home. After meeting with a number of majors, Gomez decided that John Janick’s Interscope was the best fit for her. 

“I was very impressed by Selena when we first met,” says Janick. “She had a clear vision about what she wanted to do with the next stage of her career. She’s a young adult now, and it was natural for her to want her music and image to reflect her growth. That’s one of the reasons why she took a role in an edgy movie [2013’s Spring Breakers]. We got to know each other during the next few months, and over time it became obvious to her that we were on the same page—that we got it. She trusted us, and that was a big part of it.” 

Just as the deal was finalized, Aaron Bay-Schuck arrived at Interscope as President of A&R, and the accomplished record-maker’s first assignment at his new gig was the Gomez album, bringing what Janick describes as “a strong musical and creative vision" to this top-priority project. “Aaron and I work together really well,” Janick says of his longtime close associate; the two execs partnered on such acts as Bruno Mars. “We think alike, and we have a lot in common—we’re both extremely hard workers. Aaron is at the forefront of the new generation of A&R executives. I’d put him up against anybody.”

Bay-Schuck’s first task was to get a sense of what Gomez was all about. “I was immediately impressed from the first meeting by how articulate and how in touch with her feelings she was,” he recalls. ”She didn’t necessarily have every step mapped out for how she wanted to get to the next step, but she knew that she had work to do and she knew that she wanted to transition from being a young artist to one who was more adult and had more of a point of view. 

“Selena was involved top to bottom in the making of the whole record,” Bay-Schuck continues. “Sometimes it was on a co-writing level; sometimes it was just coming in and speaking to the writers about a particular concept she had in mind. But she really developed personal relationships with almost everybody involved in the record, so whether or not she was present in the room, they always had a firm grasp of what she wanted to sing about. And since she had not previously been involved in the making of her records the same way she was with this one, the process involved introducing her to a world of producers and songwriters that she didn’t previously know. She knew Rock Mafia, Max Martin, Stargate and Benny Blanco, and I thought it was important for her to work with some people she might not be familiar with, like Mattman & Robin, to get some new perspective—to draw things out of her that she didn’t previously know were there. It’s a journey they went on together.” 

The other critical aspect of the project involved presenting the 23-year-old artist to the marketplace, and specifically to her constituency—an intensely loyal fan base primarily composed of her contemporaries who had grown up with her. “Getting in business with Selena and her team provided us with the opportunity to really challenge ourselves to deliver on her relationship with her fans,” Vice Chairman and marketing chief Steve Berman explains. “So what we tried to do is look at every opportunity to touch those fans with the relationships and partnerships that we and they bring collectively.”

The multifaceted setup encompassed programs with Spotify and YouTube, partnering with Apple on the innovative “Same Old Love” video, and connecting Gomez’s existing relationship with Pantene, which launched an extensive TV campaign, to a Target initiative linking a $5 rebate from the cosmetics company to an exclusive deluxe version of the new album. TV looks including The Today Show, Fallon and Ellen will be topped off in early December with a Victoria’s Secret special on which Gomez will perform in the elite company of The Weeknd and Rihanna—“That’s the mantle she belongs on,” Berman asserts. 

“It’s so important to Selena that her fans go on this journey with her, and that they understand her growth and her transformation,” says Berman. “That’s why, beyond getting the record right, she was so careful about the album title, the artwork, the messaging to her fans. All of it was crafted with the message of respect for her fans and for herself.”

The aptly titled Revival, dropped Oct. 9 and debuts at #1 on this week’s chart. On the black-and-white cover portrait, Gomez sits stripped bare, with a piercingly direct gaze. She’s grown up in the limelight, and more recently her romantic/personal life has been a tabloid target. Now, she’s metaphorically (and literally) naked and unafraid. 

“I’ve had the good fortune of working with a lot of artists in my career, and I’ve never had the privilege of being so locked in with an artist’s journey of self-discovery,” says Bay-Schuck, “She really found her voice through this process, and I’m proud of her for accomplishing it.”

Gomez with (l-r) Bay-Schuck, Zedd and Janick

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