One nonobvious fact about me is that I am a gigantic fan of Selena, the Tejano singer born in Corpus Christi who was killed by her fan club manager at the early age. News of the murder came to me just days after I learned after I would go to Albania for the Peace Corps. As luck would have it, her last concert was at the Astrodome a few weeks before that, and I had seriously considered going to the rodeo just to see Selena. (The Astrodome concert is now on DVD). I was somewhat familiar with Selena at the time and since that time have scoured the Net for more information about her. For non-fans, the place to start is the wonderful and respectful biopic, Selena by Gregory Nava starring Jennifer Lopez. Lopez has lots of similarities in personality and appearance to Selena, and pretty much making this film launched her career (even though in the movie itself Jennifer Lopez lip-synced all the songs; the voice in the movie was Selena herself).
One frequently overlooked fact about Selena is that her brother A.B. Quintanilla III was a great song writer and so were Pete Astudillo and Ricky Vela. Also, Chris Perez is an extraordinarily talented rock guitarist (here’s a great audio track by Chris Perez which is called For Selena). I saw him perform solo at a Houston International Festival concert on the Latino stage. I thought he was going to lurk under the shadows of Selena fame, but he didn’t mention her name once or perform any of her songs. His music was a fusion of Latino and hard rock.
Selena stuff. (This is pretty amazing)
- I have raved before about the No Me Queda Mas song and video. It was filmed in San Antonio by the River Walk, a place dear to my heart. Now here’s a behind-the-scenes about the making of the video which shows off her total charm. According to the wikipedia article about the song, this staircase came from the SA Amtrak station, which I’ve visited before and will visit several more times before I die. The video is about remembering old loves, and ironically it has become the perfect way to remember our love for a singer who expired way too soon.
- Here’s a charming live performance in Acapulco where a bunch of audience members get on stage and kiss Selena and dance with her. (A.B. reports that later on Selena was absolutely sick of singing Como La Flor).
- here’s a live grainy San Antonio performance of Selena singing Where did the Feeling Go. This is a real find! this is 1991 at the age of 20! Part 2 of the same concert shows an entertaining dance number where Selena starts playing bass guitar. Also, here is an amazing dance song Juana la Cubana which Selena covers from Fito Olivares… Just dynamite! From the same concert: Mentiras which definitely shows off Selena’s stage personality.
- The 1995 performance of Baile Esta Cumbia at the Astrodome is unsurpassed. By now any Selena fan is familiar with everything in the 1995 Astrodome performance, though it’s worth pointing out that the No Me Queda Mas live version was particularly poignant. She seems out-of-breath and exhausted, but still sings energetically.
- For a real treat, here’s her Dame un beso which she sang at the age of 1987 (when she was 16 years old!)
- Holy moly! Every time I find an earlier video and conclude this is absolutely the earliest possible song by Selena, I find another. Here’s a 9 year old Selena singing Feelilngs. Holy double moly. Another youtube video records her singing the same song at age 8 (That has to be wrong!) Here’s an interview with a 10 year old Selena. In this interview they show footage of Selena singing other songs at about the same age. Perhaps the lesson learned here is that musicians need to start out really early.
Apparently unbeknownst to me in 2007 there was a Selena Vive concert which invited many Latino luminaries to sing versions of her songs. This concert was in Houston. If I had heard of it, I would have certainly done anything and everything to go to it. But I did not and will always regret it. (Apparently the concert was the highest rated TV event on the Spanish language history, but registered not a blip in mainstream coverage). Both the CD and DVD contain only excerpts and incompetent ones at that. Still, after looking at the clips on Youtube, I have to conclude that most of the performances were unremarkable and even bad. Thalia/Gloria Estefan and others just didn’t capture the songs they sang. (Perhaps this is a testament to how diverse and eclectic Selena could be that she could fuse all these styles effortlessly). The CD is not much better, I’m afraid. Some highlights:
- Alicia Villarreal sang an incredible cover of Si Una Vez (which compares favorably to the original Selena song).
- Bidi bidi bom bom as performed by Alejandra Guzman had a saucy Latin flavor. One reviewer described the performance as though it were being sung by a stripper. i partially agree, but at least she had fun with it.
- Here’s an oddly appropriate rap version of La Carcacha as performed by Ana Barbara. Paulino Rubio tried to do something similar with Fotos y Recuerdos which was nothing special.
- Kumbia Kings (starring A.B. Quintilla) does a rap/sampling version of Baile Esta Cumbia and made it great.
- La India sings a nice version of No Debes Jugar with style and a soulful take on it. What a lovely voice! What a superstar!
- Ana Gabriel did a mariachi version of the song Tu Solo Tu . Great singing, mediocre song.
- Oddly enough, the signature song (and finale to the concert) Como La Flor was not included in the DVD. This moving (or sappy) tribute had on the screen the original Selena singing the song from the final concert, while the other singers onstage and the audience sang the chorus.
Quite apart from the Selena Vive concert, Jennifer Lopez did an extremely moving rendition of one of Selena’s last songs , I could fall in love with you. In this video the way she closes the song is absolutely ethereal. On the surface, this song sounds banal, but the melody has a lot of interesting moments: dissonant chords, dreamy pauses, tonal contrasts, plus a moment where the tempo becomes more excited and upbeat, the moment before disillusionment when passion wells up.