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Selena: 1971-1995: Vocalist

Signed To Emi Latin

Those awards propelled Selena to a major-label contract with the EMI-Latin imprint; her first album for EMI, entitled Selena, was released in 1989. Her contract was reported to be worth six figures, unprecedented in the cottage industry that tejano music had been up to that time. EMI's investment paid off handsomely, however, for by 1995 her recordings had sold an estimated three million copies. The 1993 album Selena Live received a Grammy award for best Mexican-American album, and the following year's Amor prohibido reached gold-record levels with sales of a reported 600,000 copies in the United States alone. Selena now performed to arena-sized crowds such as those at Houston's annual Livestock Show and Rodeo.

A sexy image was nothing new in the world of Latin female vocals, but Selena pushed the trend to new extremes. Sometimes she would elicit wild reactions from male fans by tossing undergarments into concert crowds. Some dubbed Selena the Latin Madonna (in reference to the raunch-inclined pop vocal star), but there was always a more wholesome side to her persona as well; she was noted for spearheading anti-drug efforts, and her demeanor in media appearances off stage was pleasant and idealistic.

Selena's music had enough variety to complement the subtleties of her image-making. Her 1992 album Baila esta Cumbia fused tejano with the Colombian dance genre of cumbia, which was popular all over the Spanish-speaking Western hemisphere, but she was equally at home with sentimental ballads, with exuberant traditional dance tunes, and with the self-composed 1994 novelty hit "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom." Sometimes overlooked in discussions of Selena's personal charisma and of her way of connecting with fans was her purely musical creativity; she took tejano music into new stylistic realms. Among her last recordings was a duet with Talking Heads lead vocalist David Byrne, made for the film Blue in the Face—probably an unthinkable stretch for any other mainstream Latin artist of the day.

In 1995 Selena made film and television appearances and laid plans for the release of Dreaming of You. Partly recorded in English and released in EMI's main (rather than Latin) product line, the album was considered likely to spark a crossover to the U.S. pop mainstream that would equal or exceed any other achieved by a Hispanic performer. The singer opened a pair of eponymous clothing stores in San Antonio and Corpus Christi, and a Selena-branded clothing line was also in the discussion stages. In charge of these new enterprises was the president of Selena's fan club, Yolanda Saldivar, whom Selena had hired as an executive the previous year. Saldivar's apartment was said to be a miniature Selena shrine, virtually covered with images of the singer.

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Paul Anthony Samuelson (1915– ) Biography to Bessie Smith (1895–1937) BiographySelena: 1971-1995: Vocalist Biography - Sang At Family Restaurant, Signed To Emi Latin, Confronted Fan Club President