For a long time, Gomez has — whether by a calculated PR design or by accidental default — been perceived as a celebrity first and a star second. Most people would probably most easily recognize her as Taylor Swift’s loyal friend and Justin Bieber’s scorned ex-girlfriend before they could identify one song in her catalog.
Despite her casting in controversial art house films by Harmony Korine (Spring Breakers) and Woody Allen (A Rainy Day in New York), her body of work still largely stands as teenybopper crack such as Disney Channel’s Wizard of Waverly Place and aggressively bland movies such as Monte Carlo.
Her music career has been just as unapologetically commercial, predictably yielding hits such as “Come & Get It,” and “Lose You to Love Me.”
Despite her undeniable success, she's never reached the heights of pop stardom of the likes of Swift, nor is she a bankable movie star. Somehow, she still became ubiquitous in the 2010s through a heavily marketed, or rather force-fed, stardom and, of course, relevant celebrity.
In the April issue of Vogue, Gomez said she might do one more album before calling it quits.
"It’s hard to keep doing music when people don’t necessarily take you seriously,” she told the publication. “I’ve had moments where I’ve been like, 'What’s the point? Why do I keep doing this?' 'Lose You to Love Me' I felt was the best song I’ve ever released, and for some people it still wasn’t enough."
It's unclear what Gomez means by “taken seriously” or which “some people” she’s referencing. She has millions of streams, has received a slew of awards (though never gotten the golden seal of approval by the Grammys), and has no particular background as an accomplished student of music to be dismissed.
Her experience in the industry, however, is likely riddled with age-old sexism, but she doesn’t make that case either.
The list of artists who weren’t taken seriously as singers runs in a chronologically descending order from her own ex, Bieber, to the Spice Girls and Brigitte Bardot. It didn’t seem to stop any of them from fanning away their worries about public perception with big, fat checks.
“Selenators,” as Gomez stans call themselves, expectedly took to social media in a mass freak out performance. Even Cardi B isn’t down with Gomez's one-more-album notice, and said, “I think she needs one more era.”
But do we need another era of Gomez, though?
She may need one more era to find her inner Harry Styles, to break a pattern of seeking mainstream appeal and discover whatever feels genuine. Audiences, however, may not allow the stage space for yet another do-over.
Gomez’s strain of glossy, commercial pop feels merely another offering in a tired franchise, one perpetuated tirelessly and most recently by the parallel success of Demi Lovato and the likes of Camila Cabello.
My proud-to-be-GenZ daughter, a much harsher music critic than I am, says that Gomez is “irrelevant,” and “kinda cringe.” Let's bear in mind that hers is a generation that would place Billie Eillish’s musical ability above Beethoven’s, but then again, my own would likely do the same with Fiona Apple.
I hate to suggest that a local success story isn't befitting of a second chapter, especially as a fellow Latin woman when God knows we could use the representation.
"It’s hard to keep doing music when people don’t necessarily take you seriously." – Selena Gomez to Vogue
After all, there’s no particular reason Gomez should be immediately returned to the star-making factory from whence she emerged and was molded into whatever made her and her deserving family rich. For her film with Allen (which was cautiously shelved by Amazon as its release coincided with Dylan Farrow’s open letter describing her abuse by Allen, her father), she ignored her own mother’s advice to work with the still-quasi-disgraced filmmaker and refused to apologize along with fellow Allen-cast actors — who wanted their peer envy cake and to eat it too — who made public apologies after appearing in his films.
Besides criticism for her association with Allen, Gomez has remained less problematic than contemporaries such as Vanessa Hudgens (who famously downplayed the threat of COVID when her plans to attend Coachella were canceled) and Lindsay Lohan (who, among other things, publicly defended Harvey Weinstein, of all people, following his outing as a longtime abuser of women).
Gomez, on the other hand, has publicly detailed her life with a lupus diagnosis and offered some other solid role-modeling through the years.
Now she is "embracing her Mexican heritage" with an upcoming Spanish album, and continues seemingly adhering to the safe-path blueprint laid out by fellow singer-actress megastars such as Jennifer Lopez, including a biopic in the works, where Gomez will be portraying the openly gay Silvia Vásquez-Lavado, the first Peruvian to climb Mt. Everest.
But Lopez owns her charisma-over-art place in pop culture as a bombshell with singing and dancing ability — not necessarily the other way around. She’s channeled her massive fandom into a solid clientele, selling them fragrances, clothes and whatever else people are willing to buy to support her.
Gomez’s music has always been interchangeable with the offerings of other radio darlings such as Lovato; her own artistry has remained unseen, falling short of making any great impact as an artist, performer, vocalist or thespian.
No one expects Gomez to suddenly conjure the heart-bleeding soul of powerhouses Amy Winehouse or Nina Simone, or to burn up stages with the performing power of Britney Spears, but for the fame she’s been afforded since her days as a friend of Barney’s, her career hasn’t yielded many showstopping — even memorable— moments.
Perhaps life hasn't handed Gomez the creative lemons to make Beyoncé’s brand of Lemonade, and she's merely working what she’s got: a crowd-pleasing likeability, a pleasant voice fit for an occasional filler hit. Not enough to make as much as a dent in the larger volumes of music history or inspire subsequent generations like her late namesake.
Gomez needn’t cut off an ear in the name of art or try so hard to sell a deeply personal record, but if Gomez is afforded a new era, instead of demanding acclaim when she hasn’t produced any particular thing worth acclaiming let’s hope she uses her time to break out of the People's Choice-contending mold already.