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Opinion: It Seems the Only People Who Like the New Selena Album Are Her Family

With the release of Selena’s “Moonchild Mixes,” a posthumous album comprised of recordings she made between the ages of 13 and 16, a controversy has emerged in regard to how we run the risk of damaging the legacy of celebrities who died prematurely by releasing music without their input.

Posthumous albums are pretty much a guarantee for any musician who’s passed, especially those who died at the height of their fame. Everyone from Biggie and Pac to Michael Jackson to Nirvana has been the subject of posthumously-released music. The list of artists who have had music released after their deaths is practically endless.

But the ethics surrounding this practice has, once again, become a topic of conversation in the public sphere, with an especially critical eye cast on the new Selena album, which not only mines her earliest recordings for new music but has taken those recordings and pitch-shifted them to make her sound how she did in the early 90s.

The Quintanilla family has reassured fans time and time again that Selena would be happy with the album, but many of her fans are not so sure. Whatever the consensus may be, there’s no denying that “Moonchild Mixes” is a family affair.

The album’s production was handled by Selena’s brother, A.B. Quintanilla III, who worked as a composer and producer for the late artist’s band, Selena y Los Dinos. The album’s cover was designed by her sister and former Los Dinos drummer, Suzette Quintanilla, and the album has been co-signed by the family’s patriarch, Abraham Quintanilla Jr. 

In an interview with Variety, Abraham said, “It definitely wasn’t an overnight process,” adding, “We were able to extract her vocal tracks with new technology to make her sound more mature. If you listen to it, it gives you that feeling that it was recorded — as if she went into the studio this morning.”

Selena’s sister Suzette doesn’t “think there’s anything that ‘crosses the line,'” and even mentioned a plan to potentially revive Selena as a hologram, much like Tupac was at 2012’s Coachella Festival. “There’s a reason why these holograms are wanted, are being made — because these artists are loved and they have such a huge fan base that’s wanting to go see them,” Suzette said.

She continued, “I know for us, every project that we do, we do it with love. And with special care, making sure that it’s what her fans are wanting. And there’s a whole new generation of fans out there now. So, if a hologram looks right and it feels like Selena and it does resemble her, of course, we would love to create something like that.”

The only problem with that line of thinking is: Selena’s fans don’t seem to love this new album. While there has been praise for certain tracks, like writer Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s partiality towards the song “Enamorada de Ti” in an otherwise negative review published in Vulture, the album as a whole hasn’t been so warmly received.

A report from NPR reveals more about why the album has fans hesitant to embrace it. There’s the fact that many of the tracks are heavily-remixed versions of Selena’s hits, with the other, original tracks utilizing the pitch-shifting technology that’s making many uncomfortable with the intentions behind the release.

“While I welcome new Selena music, it bothers me to know that her brother and others are unnecessarily editing her vocals,” said Selena superfan Ruben Moody. “There’s no need to guess how Selena would sound as an older singer. Just give the fans the unreleased material as a posthumous album or a deluxe version of an existing album.”

Even professionals who support the technology in theory, like Taurin Barrera — the executive director overseeing a music technology program at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music — agree that using it on Selena’s voice is a bad idea. “Her original recordings are so raw and incredible. But when they pitched the music a little bit lower so that it would sound like a more mature version of Selena, that’s not really how us fans of Selena envision her,” he said.

As for the Selena superfans who are excited for the album, their anticipation doesn’t seem to stem from a place of artistic integrity, but rather the fact that there’s new Selena music in the first place. The NPR report quotes Kyra Fortenberry as saying, “Personally, I’m excited that it’s something new. You can only go through the existing albums so many times.” Perhaps tellingly, the Quintanilla family declined to comment on the ethics surrounding the new album.

There’s also the matter of marketing the album to the established Selena fanbase as well as a newer generation of listeners who may have never heard of Selena in the first place. “When [A.B.] was creating the music and selecting the songs for this album,” Suzette said in the Variety profile, “he kept in mind what the younger generation was listening to, to bring Selena to a new, younger audience.”

It’s not like the Quintanilla family hasn’t licensed Selena’s likeness and popularity to poor results in the past. As the Vulture review reminds us, there was the arguably tasteless Forever 21 clothing line as well as, no joke, a Selena-branded credit card. Keeping all of that in mind, it’s difficult to discern the family’s intentions behind the new album.

Is it a shameless cash grab from an estate that drops new Selena-themed merchandise whenever the well starts to dry up? Or are these genuine attempts at maintaining a legacy by a family who is still very much invested in the public image of a loved one who has passed on? It’s hard to tell.

One thing is for sure: looking at the list of successful posthumous albums, “Moonchild Mixes” will probably fall somewhere closer to the bottom than the top.

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