Without Selena, where would pop music be? From the second she set her 10-year-old foot on stage to her unforgettable Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo performance decked out in the timeless purple outfit - we knew she was a star. She became an icon. A diva. A Hispanic-hued Barbie in an English-speaking world - a rarity and a goddess, all in one body and with no qualms in between. Her influence was so large that even non-Spanish speakers know the words to "Como La Flor" by heart. She had the ability to touch us all - and before we even knew it, she was gone. Just in a flash - gone.
There are so many questions about her rise and her murder, but there is so little time to make sense of it all, so let's not dilly around the differences. Let's piece together what we do remember about her. We love her. We miss her. We embrace all memories we have of her. Instead of going down the rabbit hole of "Would there be a J-Lo if there was never a Selena?," let's just get to the point: Selena is a woman worth treasuring. The Houston Symphony is giving us one weekend of unadulterated Selena appreciation, and we're not going to let this opportunity pass us by to celebrate the gift that she gave us. Selena will live forever in our hearts, and at least for one weekend, in the instruments of our beloved orchestral group.
Selena Quintanilla left a mark on this world that is still held dearly to this day. As such, the Houston Symphony is paying tribute to the starlet with "The Music of Selena" on July 12 and 13 at Jones Hall. (Run, don't walk, to get tickets as this is sure to be a sell-out show. Mark my words. These tickets will sell out faster than the Selena plastic cups sold in limited quantities at Stripes gas stations or the vinyl bags sold by HEB.)
The organization is bringing Isabel Marie Sanchéz as the featured performer who will lend her voice to honor Selena's music for the weekend. The singer, just 16 years old, represents the new millennium's version of that same spirit that made Selena a star. At such a young age, she has already competed in nationally televised singing competitions, released records and toured the world - much like the person who inspired her from the start.
Even though she is just a high school junior in age, she has a lifetime of experience bolstering her talent. She has made friends with the Quintanilla family, who endorse her appearances. She remembers fondly the influence of Selena in her life, despite the fact that Selena passed before Sanchéz was born.
"She has definitely left a mark on Latin music. She fused so many different genres together. She made her own sound. She inspired artists to be different," Sanchéz said. "She would present that in her fashion, personality, the way she did music with her brother, her stage presence and she instilled that in artists...not only female artists but male artists too. As Latinos, we want to dance or cry or laugh. She’s emotional, and we feel that connection to her through her music. She changed Latin culture overall."
Selena - just like Whitney, Britney, Cher, Madonna and the other members of the "no last name required" club - has been in inspiration for many a young girl, and she captured the heart of both English and Spanish speakers with her catchy tunes and her breakthrough to stardom. After all, she earned it. She spent her early teen years performing at grocery stores and malls. She did anything and everything in the show business world to get a break. For years, she toiled just trying to get noticed. But when that break came, it came hard. She skyrocketed to success, crossing national and international charts.
Selena became the first female Tejano artist to take home a Grammy for Best Mexican-American Album, and from there, the success kept rolling in. Her album "Live!" hit number two on the Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart, and her posthumous album "Dreaming of You" crossed into mainstream popularity and launched the songs we still sing today.
She was, what many remember, as the first international superstar. A star-studded rose, by any other name, is still a rose, but she had a homegrown comfort to her that made her approachable and real. From one minute, she could belt out Cumbia. The next minute, she could be talking about her memories of growing up in Texas. And she did it all with a sleek smile and glimmer in her eye. She also never forgot the ones who stood by her the entire way: her family.
Talent like Selena's is once in a lifetime, which is probably why we still love her. She is the queen of Tejano music and always will be the queen of our hearts.
Just like Selena, Sanchéz has put in the sweat equity to earn her status. The singer used to perform eight sets a day on the weekends in attempt to get her big break. To put it lightly, she said, "It wasn't easy." Nonetheless, she pushed through, earning the notice of the Quintanilla family, and now she is quickly on the road to building her own empire of music.
The love that existed between Selena and her family is very present with Sanchéz. Her family has been instrumental in supporting her - and she's found a second family with Quintanilla's relatives.
"It’s great to do this with my family, with my dad and mom and siblings by my side and the backing of the Quintanilla family. It’s something I’m really grateful for," she said. "When I first got signed, I said, 'Thank you,' all the time. I’m really grateful for everything. They received me with arms wide open, and they feel like a family to me now."
"Emotional" is the word, for sure. Selena had a way of nailing down one emotion and then creating an entire song around that single feeling. Ever had the hots for the neighbor down the street? Put on "El Chico del Apartamento 512" Ever feel the blues from unrequited love? Put on "Dreaming of You." Feeling nervous about a new love interest? Play,"I Could Fall In Love." Ever dared to take a walk on the wild side and date someone who your family didn't approve of? There's a song for that: "Amor Prohibido."
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Ever want to crank up the music and let loose? Selena's disco cover from the Houston Rodeo is legendary. Basically, you name it - Selena probably sang about it. We remember the songs, and we will celebrate them all. Gone but not forgotten, Selena's music lives on, and for one weekend, we all will get the chance to relive the joy she brought us. And that live-it-all spirit is exactly what Sanchéz will bring for the concert.
She said, "The audience is going to experience something so amazing. It’s the first time the Houston Symphony is doing a full program of all Selena music. They’re going to feel her spirit and the love of her music and being around people who are all there for one person. Dancing and remembering her legacy is what the fans will experience."
Parking note: Parking in the downtown area is under construction and may affect normally planned routes. Maintenance has temporarily closed the tunnel between the underground Theater District Parking Garage and Jones Hall. More information is available online.
Performances of "The Music of Selena" are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. July 12; and 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. July 13 at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For information, visit houstonsymphony.org or call 713-224-7575. This concert is supported, in part, by the Houston Symphony Hispanic Leadership Council. $25 - $112.