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The former Disney star finds her voice—and some sexy grooves—on her revealing new album.

August 31, 2015 at 04:59 PM EDT

Selena Gomez’s latest hit, “Good for You,” is one of this summer’s most scintillating songs, and the pop star, 23, promises more blush-inducing jams on Revival, her first album since leaving Disney for Interscope. “I’ve lived such a public life that I understand that I’m under a microscope,” she says. “That has taken me into so many different phases. It’s made me depressed and it’s made me happy and it’s made me grateful and humble—but [I’ve learned] it’s okay to let down my walls with my music, to feel sexy and good.”

For the recording sessions, Gomez teamed up with her go-to collaborators Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter from Semi Precious Weapons, Hitboy, and Rock Mafia (Miley Cyrus, Ellie Goulding) and retreated to Mexico’s Puerto Vallarta for a week in April. “We stayed in a house together like one big family,” she says. “We’d wake up in our bathing suits, go to the beach and then the studio for hours. I wanted to feel the songs and be weird and have a change of environment.” (She also worked separately with Britney Spears and Katy Perry hitmakers, Stargate and Benny Blanco, and British pop star Charli XCX.)

The result is a cohesive album that harkens back to some of Gomez’s touchstones. “I grew up with Britney and NYSYNC and Janet and all those people,” she says. “I would buy the copy, read the thank yous, and I felt like I knew them. Christina [Aguilera]’s Stripped was one of my favorites. What I loved about Revival is that it felt like there was a fluid story.”

Revival, due out Oct. 9, could also be her most confident collection yet. “I was always insecure with my speaking voice because it’s so low,” she says. “I never felt like it was feminine-sounding. I didn’t know it would be such an asset to who I am now, though. It adds a cool, personal quality. It’s exciting.”

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Get exclusive details about fall’s buzziest albums in Entertainment Weekly Issue #1379, on stands Aug. 27.

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