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Music / Selena

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Como la flor / Con tanto amor / Me diste tú, se marchito / Me marcho hoy, yo sé perder

"The thing about Selena... like, say, Bob Marley, is that she actually put a genre on the map. Millions and millions of Americans would have never heard of Tejano music if it wasn't for Selena."
Nathan Brackett, "Rolling Stone.''

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez (April 16, 1971 - March 31, 1995), known to the world as Selena, was an American singer-songwriter from Corpus Christi, Texas.note  Selena's father, an ex-musician, recognized her talent as a vocalist early on, formed his family into a band, and made her the frontman — er, woman. The group, known as Selena y Los Dinos (Selena and the Guys), played Tejano / Tex-Mex music at small time gigs all over Texas while recording several independent albums. In 1989, Selena signed with EMI Latin and her individual career spun off from Los Dinos; her self-titled debut album appeared that year. Her second album, Ven Conmigo, was the first Tejano album by a woman ever to earn a Latin Gold certification. 1992 saw the release of Entre A Mi Mundo, and the single "Como La Flor", which became one of her signature songs. Her annual domination of the Tejano Music Awards, and the Grammy win for Selena Live!, cemented Selena's status as a Tejano legend. Four songs off of 1994's Amor Prohibido — the title track, "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom", "No Me Queda Más", and "Techno Cumbia" — topped the Billboard Latin Charts within a single year, and brought Selena, and Tejano music, widespread popularity in Latin America. Her rising success caught the eye of big name producers, who felt she was ready for an English-language crossover album; in 1995, Selena began working on Dreaming of You.

Meanwhile, Selena did extensive community outreach, launched her own fashion line and fragrances, and opened up a pair of clothing boutiques, called "Selena, Etc." She entrusted most of the business operations to her assistant Yolanda Saldívar, who also ran Selena's fan club and slowly worked her way into the band's inner circle. In early 1995, Selena's father raised concerns that Saldívar was controlling access to Selena and embezzling money from the fan club. Selena's initial doubt turned to suspicion as Saldívar held onto important financial documents from the boutiques and refused to hand them over. On the morning of March 31, 1995, Selena met with Saldívar to recover the papers and break off their friendship; as Selena turned to leave, Saldívar pulled a gun and shot Selena in the back, killing her.

Selena's shocking death, and the wildly successful crossover album Dreaming of You, released the summer after she died, have made Selena more famous in death than in life outside the Spanish speaking world. But Selena has been credited with raising the profile of Tejano music, and many of her songs are now part of the Latin music canon. The success of her crossover album helped pave the way for the "Latin Invasion" in the late '90s — a group that included Jennifer Lopez, whose portrayal of Selena in the Selena 1997 biopic is considered her breakout role. To date, Selena has sold over 60 million records worldwide. Many Mexican-Americans still revere her as a folk hero.note  Pretty impressive for someone who never took singing lessons and, for most of her life, wasn't even fluent in Spanish.

A series detailing Selena's life premiered on Netflix in December 2020. She is portrayed by The Walking Dead alumna, Christian Serratos. Maria Garcia's podcast Anything for Selena illustrates how Garcia shaped her own identity out of the inspiration of Selena's life.

Studio discography:

  • Selena (1989)
  • Ven ConmigoTranslation  (1990)
  • Entre a Mi MundoTranslation  (1992)
  • Amor ProhibidoTranslation  (1994)
  • Dreaming of You (1995)

Tropes related to Selena's work:

  • The Alcoholic: "Tú Sólo Tú"
  • The Alleged Car: The titular car of "La Carcacha," driven by her boyfriend and ridiculed by all her friends.
  • Audience Participation: In her live performances of "¿Qué creías?," she would often invite a member of the audience onto the stage as a stand-in for her no-good ex-novio.
  • Audience Participation Song: Selena often invited audiences to sing along with her. For example, on her album Live!, she has them sing along with two refrains of "Ven Conmigo." Other common candidates were "Baila esta cumbia" and "Como la flor."
  • Band of Relatives: Los Dinos had Selena on vocals, her brother A.B. on bass, and sister Suzette on drums. Later she married her guitarist Chris Pérez, adding him to the family.
  • But Not Too Foreign: Selena wasn't Mexican but Mexican-American, and her first language was English and not Spanish, which added to her crossover appeal in the U.S. That she wasn't just American but Mexican-American made her more acceptable in Mexico.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Being a Texan, Selena started off doing country music. To newer/English-speaking fans, some of the '80s-infused Tejano probably counts. Not to mention all the polka.
  • Faux Fluency: Selena originally couldn't speak Spanish at all; she learned all of her early songs phonetically. Eventually, she learned enough to hold her own in interviews.
  • Flower Motifs: "Como La Flor" of course.
  • Gratuitous Disco Sequence: The "Disco Medley" opener from her concert at the Houston Livestock Show
  • Gratuitous Spanish: Whispered lines like "Mi amor, cómo te extraño"note  in "Dreaming of You" and in a lot of the other English songs on that album.
    • Her Spanish songs have some Gratuitous English as well, i.e. "Oh, oh, baby" in "Amor Prohibido."
  • Iconic Outfit: Her Astrodome attire. It consists of the purple jumpsuit with the bell bottoms, her long hair with the feathered bangs, a bandage on her left index finger, and most famously, the lipstick-stained microphone. It is her most famous outfit worldwide and is the one outfit that anyone who knows of Selena will recognize.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "Tus Desprecios," an upbeat polka song comparing a lover's scorn to a dagger that is slowly murdering the relationship.
  • Listing Cities: In "La Tracalera" there's Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Laredo, Austin, Houston, Dallas, Waco, Victoria...
  • Only One Name: Professionally, she was only ever known by her first name.
  • Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom"
  • Silly Love Songs: Virtually all of her songs minus "Techno Cumbia" and "La Tracalera."
  • Title-Only Chorus:
    • "I Could Fall in Love"
    • "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom".
  • This Is a Song: In "Techno Cumbia":
    "Porque esta canción no es pa' ningún flojón"
  • Translated Cover Version:
    • A cover of a cover: Selena did a Spanish version of A Taste of Honey's "Sukiyaki," which itself is an English cover of Kyu Sakamoto's Japanese hit "Ue O Muite Aroukou".
    • Also, "Fotos Y Recuerdos", inspired by the Pretenders' "Back on the Chain Gang".
  • Vocal Dissonance: Selena is mostly known for her Spanish songs, so it's easy to forget that Selena was a native English speaker from South Texas. Even long-time fans are surprised to hear that thick Texas twang when she speaks English.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!: Subverted by Selena doing the rapping herself in "Techno Cumbia" and "Enamorada de Ti".