I mentioned a couple of months ago the popularity of Rema’s song “Calm Down” featuring Selena Gomez and earlier this week, it made history, becoming the first track led by an African artist to join the Spotify Billions Club. Rema and Selena also won an MTV VMA last night with their inaugural win in the Best Afrobeats song category which I have complicated feelings about. I didn’t like it when they created a separate category for K-pop and I don’t really love it that there’s now an Afrobeats category because popular music is popular music. This is like what they do at the Grammys with their pop category and then whatever “urban” category they come up with to separate genres when in fact the artists and the work that show up in the “urban” category are actually pop music, as in popular music. The MOST popular music. 


Anyway, it’s a debate for another day, and today let’s not take away from Rema’s win and the overwhelming success he’s had in the year since the song was released. It’s a great song, it’s one of the songs that has defined the year. 

As for Selena, her face is what defined much of the VMAs themselves last night because she was going viral for her reactions. They cut away to her a lot, because her reactions were so great. But of course cutaways are basically like Photo Assumption in real time. It’s the game of stupid conclusions based only on a facial expression or a gesture in any given moment without context. And this is an example of the kind of content Selena was serving last night. 


This, of course, led to all kinds of interpretations about what she was truly feeling in the moment. Was she shading Olivia Rodrigo? Was she shading Demi Lovato? She was cute and animated and engaged and enjoying the show – and she was a big part of the entertainment online, because people seemed to be more in watching for her cutaways and analysing her body language than what was actually on stage. So the audience benefited…but did she? 

Selena has talked openly about how sensitive she is, particularly in online spaces. She has a fraught relationship with social media: Selena is VERY popular on Instagram and TikTok, at one time holding the title of most followed person on IG. But it’s also been super unhealthy for her, and she’s perhaps the most famous example of the collective social worry about the effects of social media on our mental health, in particular the mental health of adolescents. Selena’s adolescence coincided with the rise of social media and its takeover of media in general. She has candidly shared the negative, almost devastating effects it can have on her. 


And so on a night like last night, when she was so much of the focus of social media, and she’s having to read comments from people speculating on whether or not she was disrespecting one person or another, it’s not surprising that she hasn’t been able to let it slide. First she explained why she looked like that during Olivia Rodrigo’s performance. 


And then she exasperatedly made this declaration:

I don’t know what the answer is here because while I obviously empathise with Selena here in that it can’t feel good to know that thousands of people are assuming they know your thoughts based on a few seconds of reaction, it’s also a human response to watch for people’s reactions. What’s NOT human, however, is flooding her comment section with accusations based only on those interpretations. These are our times.

On a happier note, she looked SO good in this red dress. There wasn’t much great fashion last night, but this was one a highlight.