Dance Away Your 2020 Blues With Selena’s Best Songs

Culture

It’s hard to sit still when a Selena song comes on. The Queen of Tejano music has a way of making you jump up from your seat to twirl around and sing “bidi bom!” really loudly—which I did several times while writing this article.

Texas native Selena Quintanilla rocketed to fame in the 1990s with mega-hits like “Como la Flor” and “Technocumbia” and cemented her status as one of the most celebrated entertainers of all time. And although the beloved icon was shot dead in 1995 by the founder of her fan club, her legacy remains as radiant—and as relevant—as ever.

Posthumously, Quintanilla topped Billboard No. 1 several times and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Over the last four years, M.A.C. introduced two Selena-inspired makeup collections, and, without fail, every Halloween celebrities pay homage to the pioneering South Texas legend by channeling her signature scintillating bodysuits and sparkly bustiers.

Perhaps more emblematic of Quintanilla’s deep, enduring legacy—even beyond her music—was a concert held last summer to benefit immigrant rights called Selena for Sanctuary. Organized in response to the Trump administration’s border policies, thousands of people gathered to support immigrant-led groups like Make the Road New York, all in the name of Quintanilla, who, as concert organizer Doris Muñoz put it, is “a symbol of hope” for many Mexican-Americans.

A bright spot amid a dark year, Netflix is honoring the life of the late singer with a new scripted show called Selena: The Series, which is executive produced by Quintanilla’s sister, Suzette. In honor of its release, ELLE.com compiled a selection of Quintanilla’s greatest hits with the help of former Texas Monthly writer Joe Nick Patoski, author of Selena: Como la Flor, the most definitive Quintanilla biography out there.

“Como La Flor”

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In Netflix’s Selena: The Series, Quintanilla (played by Christian Serratos) performs this song in the first episode—no surprise there! Patoski calls the upbeat “Como La Flor,” which translates to “Like a Flower” in English, Quintanilla’s “signature song.” From her third album Entre Mi Mando, “[it] had the kind of universal appeal” says Patoski.

“Amor Prohibido”

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The first single off Quintanilla’s album of the same name, “Amor Prohibido,” or “Forbidden Love” in English, is an ode to all star-crossed lovers. “This song of forbidden love could have just as well been about Chris Pérez [Quintanilla’s lead guitarist and husband] and Selena falling in love,” says Patoski.

Pérez, who is played by Jon Seda in Selena: The Series, told the Austin American-Statesman that he was not consulted during the show’s production. “I’m not trying to not be a part of anything. … At the end of the day, we all have our perspective on certain things and how things happened,” he told the Statesman. “I’ve put out everything I wanted to put out already. There’s not much more I want to say, and that’s the God-honest truth.”

“Bidi Bidi Bom Bom”

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It’s hard to sit still when “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom” comes on. “This nonsensical cumbia, most notably performed at [Quintanilla’s] last concert in Houston’s Astrodome in front of 60,000 fans, crossed over to become both a Latin pop hit and an American pop hit,” says Patoski.

“Fotos y Recuerdos”

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The fourth single released from Amor Prohibido, “Fotos y Recuerdos” or “Pictures and Memories” in English, samples the Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang.” It’s one of Quintanilla’s best-known dance tracks, with “lyrics about cherishing memories of a relationship,” says Patoski. He adds that the song is “framed in a classic rock en Español groove accented by organ and percussion that transcend traditional Tejano sounds.”

“Dreaming of You”

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“Dreaming of You” is widely considered Quintanilla’s most popular English-language song. The bittersweet love ballad was posthumously released in 1995 and covered by Jennifer Lopez (watch a clip here), who portrayed Selena in a 1997 biopic. “Selena’s biggest hit, released shortly after her death, is a sad, dreamy ballad sung in English,” says Patoski. “[It] only hints of her crossover potential.”

“Techno Cumbia”

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Timeless “Techno Cumbia” was a staple at South Texas family get-togethers in the 1990s: “good enough for the dance clubs as much as it was for any…wedding reception,” according to the San Antonio Current.

“Packing all the elements that justify the various DJ mixes and remixes of the tune, Techno Cumbia showcases Los Dinos’ rhythmic punch as a dance machine,” says Patoski.

“El Toro Relajo”

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“Selena gets out of her cumbia and Tejano comfort zone to wail away and show her Mexican mariachi chops on this classic,” says Patoski. “El Toro Relajo,” or “The Messy Bull” in English, was recorded for the soundtrack of the 1995 film Don Juan DeMarco starring Johnny Depp, Marlon Brando, and Faye Dunaway.

“Baila Esta Cumbia”

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Like “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” you can try and sit still while listening to “Baila Esta Cumbia,” but as its title suggests (“Dance This Cumbia” in English), you’re going to want to dance. “Selena y los Dinos led the push in Tejano music away from the polka to the cumbia with this song brimming with ritmo,” says Patoski.

“La Caracacha”

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“La Caracacha,” or “The Jalopy” in English, is Quintanilla’s biggest cumbia hit, still played at quinceañera parties all across Texas, according to the San Antonio Current. Patoski calls the song Quintanilla’s “[most] rocking track ever.”

“God’s Child”

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“God’s Child” is an outlier in the Quintanilla catalog. “A long distance collaboration with David Byrne, which also appears on the soundtrack for Don Juan DeMarco, it has Selena and the founder of the band Talking Heads doing a slow burn duet streaming with a pent-up passion heard on too few of her other recordings, or on Byrne’s other records, for that matter,” says Patoski.

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