Red lips, feathered bangs and a voice that has spanned decades — Selena Quintanilla Perez, Grammy-winning Mexican American singer known to many as Selena, released her fifth and final studio album, “Dreaming of You,” posthumously 25 years ago. Though her untimely death left many with a heavy heart, the singer’s legacy and presence in pop culture still persists to this day.
The first song I ever heard from Selena was “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” the final track from the English-Spanish crossover album “Dreaming of You.” I was around 10 years old, watching the music video and listening to her voice — her energy seemed to instantly fill the room. In the video, filmed on Santa Monica’s famous pier, Selena is joined by a group of people dancing and singing. The video cuts between bright clips of Selena and her friends smiling with sunlight beaming down on the ocean, playing games on a date with a man at the pier and driving her baby blue Jeep around Los Angeles.
Along with Selena’s contagious energy and undeniable stage presence, her music reaches many, reflecting both personal and shared human experiences in many facets of her lyrics. Her songs range from striking confessionals such as “Amor Prohibido” and “Dreaming of You,” to more playful, lighthearted ballads like “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom.”
Featuring multiple English-language songs, the posthumous release of “Dreaming of You” in 1995 was an instant success, reaching No. 1 on the Billboard top 200 charts that year — the first predominantly Spanish-language album to do so — and going on to become the best-selling Latin pop album for two years after its release. Though Selena did not live to see the success of “Dreaming of You,” she continues to inspire many young Latinx artists and fans today.
Beginning with “I Could Fall In Love,” a soft pop-rock ballad, the tracklist takes influence from multiple genres. From R&B to soul, cumbia and rock, Selena’s music takes listeners through catchy drum beats, personal stories, smooth vocals and upbeat melodies.
Transitioning from mid-tempo to a faster-paced electro-pop beat, the song that follows is “Captive Heart.” Similarly, in the mood to the preceding “I’m Getting Used To You,” the song brings in horns, synthesizers and percussion.
One of Selena’s signature hits comes during the latter half of the album — “Amor Prohibido,” which translates to “Forbidden Love” in English. The song is reflective of cumbia dance-pop and is the title track of her fourth studio album.
“Amor prohibido murmuran por las calles / Porque somos de distintas sociedades / Amor prohibido nos dice todo el mundo / El dinero no importa en ti y en mí, ni en el corazón” she sings. Despite being about a man and a woman who have had their love tested by poverty, societal differences and family disapproval, the song has a happy, upbeat, feel-good instrumentation of guitars, accordions and flutes.
Succeeding “Amor Prohibido” is a slower ballad, “Wherever You Are (Donde Quiera Que Estes),” and “Techno Cumbia” –– a fusion of sounds but ultimately influenced by Latin dance and club pop music.
Captivating the world with her popular hit song, “Como La Flor,” the track features a catchy Tejano-style cumbia chorus and beautiful lyrics about being heartbroken yet finding the strength to move on.
Many artists from all genres of music today take inspiration from Selena, including Eva Longoria, Adrienne Bailon, Jackie Cruz, Daddy Yankee and Demi Lovato. From sampling her music to covering her songs, this beloved artist remains an icon in pop culture and across the music industry.
More recently, Mac Cosmetics released its second cosmetic collection inspired by Selena earlier this year. The makeup line boasts red lipstick, rhinestones and color palettes inspired by the “Queen of Tejano Music.”
Although there is no set premiere date, Netflix is expected to premiere “Selena: The Series,” a coming-of-age television series about the late singer’s life and rise to fame later this year. Christian Serratos, an American actress of Mexican descent who adores the star, is set to play the lead. In the trailer, Serratos can be seen flipping through the script’s pages cut between scenes of a young Selena dressed in one of her iconic looks — a deep purple glitter bootcut jumpsuit — putting on a record and dancing to her song as her mother watches.
This won’t be the first time Selena’s story has been told and commemorated through popular media, as Jennifer Lopez played the artist in the 1997 biographical drama, “Selena.” Lopez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, also cites Selena as one of her musical inspirations.
From television specials, documentaries, novels and film biographies, Selena Quintanilla Perez will remain a voice remembered through time. Her talent was true. Her voice was honest. And her music and legacy lives on.
Emily Sagen is a senior writing about music’s lasting impact. She is also an arts & entertainment editor at the Daily Trojan. Her column, “The Beat Lives On,” runs every other Friday.