Today, Selena Quintanilla would have been 44 years old. It's a fool's exercise to try to imagine where she'd be or the music she'd be making had she not been gunned down by Yolanda Saldívar 20 years ago, but you can bet she would have been a legend.
"Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" tends to be the track most people know—a crossover cumbia jam all about her heartbeat—but as her late-career (sadface) hits go, I'm partial to "Amor Prohibido," above, about star-crossed lovers, which showed off her incredible range. In various styles of música Latina, the most beloved artists are vessels for raw and often heartbreaking emotion in addition to their pop appeal through personality and style. It's why everyone loves Romeo Santos, with his own, very modern take on amor prohibido, and it's why we loved Selena. She was young, but goddamn, she meant it.
That one slays me every time. It's also worth noting that part of her generational appeal was her ability to bridge traditional styles—ranchera, banda, corridos, cumbia and the like...
...with contemporary sounds that appealed to youth, like in one of my other favorites, "Techno Cumbia" which, like "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom," rejuvenated cumbia with modern "techno" synths and a little dose of dembow borrowed from dancehall.
And of course, she was an indisputable style icon—in the early '90s, many young woman stars wore boleros and bandeau tops and bustiers with leggings and big hair, but absolutely no one wore them like Selena.
Happy 44th, Selena. Bet you'd be bangin like J.Lo.
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