TORONTO - While her on-again, off-again beau Justin Bieber has made a sport of angrily antagonizing the ever-present paparazzi, Selena Gomez rarely seems in danger of losing her poise amid the prying gaze of tabloid photographers.
But it's not because she condones their behaviour.
"I don't really want to give them what they want, you know?" the 21-year-old singer with the long, dark chocolate locks said in a recent interview. "I don't agree with it (and) I don't like it. I want to go to the grocery store and hang out with my friends at the movies and not be bothered by grown men with cameras — that's awkward.
"But at the same time, it's a part of what I have to do and I have to sacrifice that, I guess. I just try to keep my head down because I know exactly what they want. They want a reaction and I don't want to give it to them."
Indeed, the Disney-reared always seemed the especially calm in contrast to Bieber's perpetual storm — not that she'd talk about that, of course. Journalists were strictly forbidden from mentioning the Stratford, Ont., pop star's name in the interview, a point mentioned several times then punctuated by the hulking body guard positioned by the hotel-room door.
The heavy-handed rules must have caused some consternation, because these are the first words Gomez utters with a shy smile as she greets her interviewer: "Are you going to be nice to me?"
Gomez, we're told, only wants to talk about "Stars Dance," her fourth album overall and first without the backing band the Scene. And the Texan sure displayed some nifty footwork here, specifically when asked about the plaintive closing track "Love Will Remember," which features such lovelorn lines as "You said you loved me, I said I loved you back/ What happened to that?"
She has previously said the song was about Bieber, but probed on the subject on this day she merely offered up: "It's a great song and it's exactly what it is and it's obviously a song that needs to say what it should say."
As indicated by the album's first single, the suggestive tribal banger "Come and Get It," the album finds Gomez tossing a few grains of grit atop her squeaky-clean image without approaching the risque depths regularly plumbed by peers.
Nothing is as shocking as her role in last year's Harmony Korine-directed bikinis-'n'-balaclavas thriller "Spring Breakers," and Gomez says she hoped to ease her fans into her maturation.
"When I did listen to the record all the way down, the first thing in my mind was: Is this appropriate from this age on to this age on? That is important to me, 100 per cent," she said. "So yes, I took that into consideration. But I think this was a perfect way for me to step into a little bit more of a mature side of music. But I still have my littles dancing to 'Come and Get It' and it makes me happy."
Gomez has mused on the possibility of "Stars Dance," in stores this week, being her last studio album. She has a busy acting schedule, with films upcoming featuring the "Wizards of Waverly Place" star alongside Ethan Hawke ("Getaway"), Mary-Louise Parker and Elisabeth Shue ("Behaving Badly") and Laurence Fishburne (William H. Macy's directorial debut, "Rudderless").
She's not discounting a return to recording in the future, but seems more intrigued by her future as an actress.
"This (music) industry's so fickle, you can't trust it — one day you're good, the next day you're gone. So that's the tricky part," she said. "I've been telling people that this might be my last record for a while. I mean, eventually I might get back into it, but I definitely haven't taken a full break just to focus on one thing.
"I did four albums, and they were all incredible, I'm very happy and proud of them, but now I think it's my turn to step more into the acting side of things and figure that out a little bit more. I'm not going to say it's forever but yes, I will take a little bit of a break."