Some of us have been playing Beyoncé’s Renaissance on repeat for the past month. But on July 29, we also got “new” music from another Texan - Selena Quintanilla. The track “Como Te Quiero Yo A Ti” was a preview of Moonchild Mixes, a posthumous album of Selena Quintanilla’s earlier and lesser known recordings, in which her voice is made to sound older. It was just released last Friday.
I’ve felt conflicted ever since I heard about this album. I love Selena. I’ve documented my Selena love multiple times on this blog, and I plan on wearing a Selena-purple jumpsuit in a few weeks when I dance to a Selena tribute band. What I’m trying to say is, my love for Selena is not in the past, it is very much present. But the idea of “new” music made me uncomfortable. In my mind and heart Selena is forever 23, and the idea of “aging” her to try to make her current is to deny that she already is. Her relevance and influence can be seen in fans and artists alike. At such a young age, she had achieved great things and was on the path to achieve so much more.
I play her music in my house often—in fact, one of the few times I’ve strayed from Renaissance this past month was to play Selena LIVE! The Last Concert. Playing this album after Renaissance seemed like an obvious choice, a way to honor this album’s flawless transitions by making one of my own. The last track of Beyoncé’s album samples Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” and the first track in Selena’s album is a disco medley which includes “Last Dance” and “On The Radio.” Do yourself a favor and (re)watch the opening number of Selena’s last filmed concert to get a little glimpse/reminder of the talent and charisma of a person and performer that is still remembered and missed. No, this was not her first time at the Houston Rodeo. It was her third, and each time she set an all-time attendance record. It should be no surprise that Houston Rodeo performers often honor Selena’s performance while they’re on the stage or about to be—because this performance (before social media could have made it even more unavoidable) is iconic.
I want to like Moonchild Mixes. I want to keep listening to Selena and continue to wonder what her life and career might have been like if she had been given the chance to grow older. But listening to Moonchild Mixes does not do it for me. In this album, I don’t hear a teen Selena or even an older version of her, I hear a facsimile. A synthetic version of her. Because of that, this album does not tap into my nostalgia. Because this music is “new” to me, it does not make me time travel to the early and mid-90s, when my love and connection for Selena was at its strongest. And while the album is “new,” its music sounds dated. The album then is an odd mix of new and old. This is not a Future Nostalgia – it’s not an album that both transports you to the past and moves the music forward.This is definitely not a Renaissance.
And you know what? I think Selena woulda LOVED Renaissance.
As I was watching and writing about Netflix’s Selena series almost two years ago now, I thought about how the best part of it was the Selena discourse. One of the gems from that time was the podcast Anything for Selena - an ode to the person and symbol from journalist Maria Garcia. Not only does the research and commentary make it worth a listen, but every episode is available in both languages. And while the episodes share the same subject, they are distinct because one episode is not a direct translation of the other — Garcia makes each episode in each language and for each audience of its own. In its content, methodology, and production Anything for Selena not only explores the meanings of a pop culture icon, but as someone who came to the United States as a 12 year old girl, I can see how, as its tagline says, it is “a podcast about belonging.” If you love Selena or you are interested in an in-depth analysis of how pop culture can connect to significant parts of our lives, take a listen.
Earlier this summer, I saw this tweet by Maria Garcia, in which she says she was asked if there was a current artist “who was breaking barriers like Selena.” Her answer? Bad Bunny.
I was in conversation with film director Greg Nava at the Academy Museum and in a media interview before the event, a reporter asked me which current artist is breaking barriers like Selena did. The answer to that is easy. Bad Bunny. Let me tell you why.— Maria Elena Garcia (@NopalitaMami) July 31, 2022
Her explanation of how Bad Bunny is “unapologetically Puerto Rican,” an artist who makes music that happens to have universal appeal but is really made “for his people,” was expressed by Bad Bunny himself, when he accepted the Artist of the Year Award at Sunday’s VMAs. He was the first non-English language performer to win the award, and he accepted it with pride by saying that he always believed he could be one of the biggest stars without having to change his culture or language…and he said it all in Spanish, no translation needed. I don’t think it’s silly to think that this is part of Selena’s legacy.
In my narrative of Selena, Moonchild Mixes does not significantly contribute to her legacy. I didn’t connect to Moonchild Mixes and I don’t need it in order to still nurture my love for Selena, but I can understand why it might mean something different to other Selena fans or her own family. In the past year, I’ve learned a lot about grief – how it can be experienced by different people, how little we talk about it, and how many of us struggle to support one another through it. Maybe Moonchild Mixes is another way her family and her fans can still process the tragedy of Selena’s death and gives them another way to celebrate who she was as a person and artist. And who am I to try to take that away from their own Selena story?