First off, I love Selena Gomez as an actress and as a role model. If you look at the likes of her contemporaries like Miley Cyrus or Emily Osment who are going a sexualized/edgy route with their music and movies, Selena stands out because she is simply NOT turning into a bona fide sellout.
You will not find a song on this album that talks about getting drunk and partying irresponsibly (like Katy Perry or Ke$ha), or being arrogant and promiscuous (like Miley Cyrus' "Can't Be Tamed"). And that's what I really like about her, this album is mature and fun at the same time. She is reaching for an older audience while still connecting with her younger audience.
I really enjoy all of these songs on this album. My absolute favorites are the soaring "A Year Without Rain", the effervescent song "Off The Chain", the feel-good dance hall jam "Spotlight", and the hauntingly beautiful ballad "Ghost of You". This album is so much better lyrically, vocally, and stylistically than her debut "Kiss & Tell". This album "A Year Without Rain" is strictly dance/techno pop and its very cohesive and calculated (in a good way). "Kiss & Tell" was too all over the place for me, but it was her learning album of where she want's to go with her music. It's obvious after "Naturally" that she chose the dance route because it suits her voice wonderfully.
Speaking of Selena's voice, I am throughly impressed and happy that her voice has matured so much. She seems to have more control and her high notes are so pretty, especially in the song "A Year Without Rain". The one thing I do miss from "Kiss & Tell" was how much more raw it was compared to this album. This album is so slick, shiny and processed to perfection. Which I don't necessarily have a problem with since this is a dance pop album.
Some of the complaints I have read on iTunes reviews are talking about how auto-tuned this album is and that the band is pretty much non-existent. Pop listeners need to remember that this is 2010 and the use of auto-tune is on almost every pop album out these days. It's the trend nowadays and it will pass, but for now this is what is "hot". Hollywood Records has an especially big liking to using auto-tune these days. Listen to Miley Cyrus' album "Can't Be Tamed" and you will hear that it's so overproduced and so auto-tuned you may not be able to hear the real Miley in the songs. At least with "A Year Without Rain" I can still distinguish this is Selena Gomez singing. It's not hardly as overproduced as Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment (like her new songs "Let's Be Friends" and "Lovesick") or Ke$ha so I'm thankful for that at least.
About the band also known as "The Scene", they are really just there to help her perform live. Just because they are a band doesn't mean that they have to take turns being the vocalists. This band is centered around Selena Gomez, we all now that. We didn't buy this CD solely to hear "The Scene" play some instruments, so come on people stop complaining about nothing.
Overall, this is a fantastic album if you love Selena Gomez and dance pop music. If you are looking for rock songs, this is the wrong album for you. Selena's voice has grown so much from "Kiss & Tell" and this album just marks the beginning of a successful, long career in acting, singing and designing fashion. I would recommend this CD to anyone looking for fun music by a talented, beautiful, wonderful role model: Selena Gomez.