One of the most influential musical icons of the 1990s was the “Queen of Tejano Music” Selena. Since her debut with her band Selena y Los Dinos in the late 1980s, the iconic singer was celebrated in Texas and Mexico as she made history as the first female to top the charts in a male-domineering musical genre. Sadly, it wasn’t until her death in 1995 that her legacy gained worldwide attention.
Growing up in the Washington DC metropolitan area, I didn’t really know who Selena was until the radio stations started to play the song “Dreaming of You”. I remember listening to the song on a hot summer day and had kept on thinking that it was simply magical. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I reconnected with the song and the rest of Selena’s discography.
The Life of Selena
Dreaming of You is a pinnacle album as it celebrates two parts of her career. One part is from the formation of Selena y Dinos during Selena’s childhood to her winning a Grammy Award in 1994. This was an arduous period as the band had to find their sparkle, audience, and, most importantly, voice. I remember watching the movie Selena with Jennifer Lopez and thinking how tough it was for Selena y Los Dinos when many disappointing situations. Some of them were disappointing audience numbers at performances, bias viewpoints, or failed business avenues. But, Selena never gave up as she was an innovator that solved problems instead of running away from them.
By 1989, Selena y Los Dinos scored a major record label deal with EMI Latin. This deal came into fruition after Jose Behar thought he found the next Gloria Estaban after watching Selena at the 1989 Tejano Awards. However, it also shelved her dream of recording English songs as EMI Records executives at the time thought that a “Mexican American woman could [never] have “crossover potential” . Instead, she released her self-titled Spanish major debut album to the Latin music market in the fall of 1989.
Perhaps, having Selena make an English music debut in 1989 was an untimely idea. During the time when Selena was released, the singer was just getting popular all around Mexico and Texas. However, it probably wasn’t enough to sway the execs to see that she was ready for an English debut.
I have always wondered if the EMI execs wanted to test the waters by having her release Spanish material first. Yes, she did previously released a handful of independent records years earlier. However, now armed with a major record label that could promote her music more, it could have been a risky venture if the record label and Selena did not try out the Latin music market first.
Whatever the case may have been, Selena didn’t give up her dreams by working hard on any material she had a chance to work on. She was given a bit of artistic freedom when creating albums with her family.
One example is “Enamorada de Ti”, where she gave her listeners the first taste of her dream of being an international superstar by releasing a song that was totally different from then her usual. “Enamorada de Ti” is described as a freestyle song with hip-hop roots. The idea for the song came after her father, Abraham Quintanilla, Jr., wanted to write a modern-day song to pursue EMI execs for a crossover deal if, according to Behar, they had a chance to see her perform. It is unknown if they actually came to see her. Nevertheless, “Enamorada de Ti” is a wonderful song that showcases Selena’s powerful potential.
The Queen of Tejano
Between 1989 to 1994, Selena’s main musical focus was Tejano. Selena and her band made awesome songs like “La Carcacha”, “Como La Flor”, “Amor Prohibido”. “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”, and my favorite “Baila Esta Cumbia”.
A turning point in Selena’s career was winning a Grammy for her 1993 live album “Selena Live!”. Winning this award proved to the music execs and the world that she was ready for a crossover. It was also an indicator that she was ready to try something different.
Even though Selena would never completely abandon her Tejano roots, she wanted to try something that was more her yet popular in the world: pop music. And, her father began to feel the same way. He began to look for lyricists and composers who knew the music industry well and could get along with her musical direction after getting a green light by EMI Records to produce a crossover album.
Dreaming of You: The Ultimate Crossover
After many months of carefully searching, Selena and her father found the people who they wanted to work. Leaving no time to waste, Selena recorded her first song, “If I Could Fall in Love” in December 1994. She then recorded “Dreaming of You”, which was a song that Selena handpick for the album as it represented her perfectly. She went on to record “Captive Heart”, “God’s Child (Baila Conmigo)”, “I’m Getting Used to You”, before her unfortunate death on March 31st, 1995.
Even if it is a combination of previously released and new tracks, Dreaming of You is a timeless, well-written album that demonstrates Selena’s talented voice. It also starts a new chapter in Selena’s life as she wanted to cross over into the international music scene while trying out a new sound. It gave us a glimpse of what the future had in store for Selena’s musical experiences. I just wished it showed more of, what Mario Tarradell of The Dallas Morning News wrote, her “bubbly, effervescent personality, the chica-del-barrio charm”.
“Dreaming of You”: Selena’s Magical, Romantic Tune
“Dreaming of You” is a magical yet timeless soft pop song. One of the best parts is the chorus because it showcases Selena’s powerful vocals. Another favorite part is the bridge, it’s so mysterious yet mystical as Selena is singing, speaking Spanish, and instrumentation’s sound is deep with a soft guitar, a conga, a drum kit, and a bass synthesizer.
Another Favorite Selena Song
“Donde Quiera Que Estes” is another favorite tune by Selena of mine. It is a sexy duet between Selena and Barrio Boyzz that I absolutely love. The chemistry between Selena and the boys is dynamic, making the song oh so delicious. Plus, it’s New Jack Swing, which is one of my favorite genres.