Selena's Family Needs to Stop Tarnishing Her Legacy

Selena's fans are always thinking of new ways to honor the beloved singer.EXPAND
Selena's fans are always thinking of new ways to honor the beloved singer.
Marco Torres

Selena fandom is serious business. Since the beloved Latino singer's tragic death 20 years ago, her fans' devotion has reached cult status and then some. From homemade art to full-on festivals and even lookalike contests, no tribute is too good or too much trouble. Anything for Selenas, right? But there are boundaries, and more and more it seems that Selena's own family is stepping over them.

Last week the Quintanilla family released a posthumous track, "Oh No (I'll Never Fall in Love Again)," which by their own admission was never meant to be heard by the public. In a statement that ran before the track on Selena Radio, Abraham Quintanilla — Selena's father and the patriarch of the family — acknowledged the song was never professionally recorded and “Oh No (I’ll Never Fall in Love Again)” was only seeing the light of day because of fan demand.

That may be true, but we're starting to feel uneasy about the way the family is handling the singer’s legacy. Although the idea of new Selena material is exciting, it's obvious why this track was never meant for public consumption. The quality barely passes for a demo.

The excitement of hearing the beloved artist's voice is quickly replaced by regret: What could it have been if she'd had the opportunity to take it to the studio? This song has also been previously recorded and released by the singer's brother A.B., which only makes the decision to release this version seem more wrong.

This isn't the first time the Quintanilla family has cashed in on the late singer and her beloved music — not even the first time this year. Back in April, shortly before the Fiesta de la Flor tribute concert held in honor of Selena in Corpus Christi, the family announced that they planned to crowdfund a fully functional Selena hologram that, according to a Facebook post, will “release new songs and videos, will collaborate with current hit artists and aims to go on tour in 2018."

News of this plan went worldwide and was featured in publications including Rolling Stone, Time and Fortune. An Indiegogo campaign was launched with the stated goal of raising $500,000 for the hologram.

Despite public support from fans and a bevy of press, the crowdfunding campaign only earned $11,000 of its half-a-million-dollar goal — proof that even rabid Selena fans are uncomfortable with her image being exploited. 

For the most part, the Quintanilla family's hearts have appeared to be in the right place over the years, and there is undoubtedly considerable pressure to protect Selena's work.

The same weekend that "Oh No" debuted, actor Edward James Olmos was in San Antonio, discussing the effect that playing Abraham Quintanilla in the Selena movie had on him as an actor. Speaking to a packed crowd at Alamo Con, Olmos recounted various stories from the filming of the biographical film, which starred Jennifer Lopez in the title role. Reflecting on his interactions with Quintanilla, he said that Selena’s father seemed to be shrouded in sadness and was determined to get every detail correct.

"Selena's father came to the set every day," Olmos was quoted as saying. "Between takes I saw him sob. But he wanted her story told. It was the hardest film I've ever made, because I missed her. It's been 20 years, and I still miss her presence every day."  

Selena was rushed into filming just over a year after the singer’s death, so emotions were naturally still high. But Olmos pointed out that, even so, the famously prickly Quintanilla’s need for perfection was even more evident than his sorrow. That character trait seems to be showing its face again now, as Quintanilla seizes any opportunity to cash in on Selena's legacy.    

The Selena statue in Corpus Christi, where fans flock to pay tribute.EXPAND
The Selena statue in Corpus Christi, where fans flock to pay tribute.

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Everyone stood by silently when the hologram was announced, because let’s be real: Everyone wants to see Selena live. But once the plan sunk in, it began to seem macabre. Yes, we want to celebrate the life and work of Selena — because we want to honor the memories she gave us, not some flimsy imitation of the singer.

We're not suggesting the family stop releasing the singer’s previous work or shut down Fiesta de la Flor, the now-annual celebration in Corpus Christi. However, it's crucial that Selena’s legacy be treated with respect. This is not a Tupac Shakur situation where there's a massive backlog of unheard work, or even a case like Elvis Presley's, with decades of material to remaster. This is Selena, an artist whose time with us was short and whose work stood on its own during her life and has continued to after her death. We don’t need to put out new material under her name. Selena's loyal, faithful fans won't stand for that.

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