26th March, 1994

World, she's arrived. Prepare to be changed.

We've encountered Selena before, but while she was notable, the song wasn't: a perfunctory saunter through a traditional romántico duet that almost anyone we've seen in these pages to date could have done just as well, to just as little effect. And she's back duetting with another flash-in-the-pan; for the second time, she's just about the only reason to pay attention to her partners' second (of two) appearances at the top.

But Barrio Boyzz, while they may not graze our notice again, have this much over Álvaro Torres: they sound like Now. The snapping new jack swing beat, the house piano, and the alternately lush and silky harmonies are all precisely where urban candyfloss pop was at in 1994, and Selena has outgrown her Ana Gabriel imitation, instead channeling an r&b diva that not only keeps up with but far outpaces the Boyzz. Their name was on the hit — she was officially a guest on their album, which was named for the song — but nobody buys Barrio Boyzz compilations for the song: by all reckonings, it's her first major hit, the place where Srta. Quintanilla-Pérez, quinceañera performer, talent-show winner, and jobbing local-circuit singer, became Selena, global pop star.

The song (as opposed to the production) is still not quite worthy of her talents. The translated title would be "Wherever You Are," and the chorus continues, just as tritely in Spanish as it comes out in English: "remember, I will be there at your side ... I think of you and feel for you ... I will always be your first love." But she has a sharper sense of rhythm than her duet partners and is in full command of her impressive vocal faculties, and once the dovey lyrics die down and she can just play with the beat, she scats circles around all of them. Not even Mariah was showboating like this; Mary J. Blige is about the only English-language equivalent, and she hadn't yet come fully into her own either.

But enjoy the breezy New York funk while it lasts; when she returns, it will be as a full-throated Texan, and the world will be, ever so briefly, hers.

1 comment:

  1. Teena Marie is an English-language equivalent, and she can sing rings around Carey and Blige, sometimes though not always to better effect. But her chart days were over by '94.