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Sunday, October 09, 2011

Sunday Jukebox: Who Says by Selena Gomez & The Scene

Today marks the conclusion of Wizards and Witches week, and admittedly, I had a bit of a struggle in choosing an appropriate topic for today. Being that it is the Sunday Jukebox, I thought it would be easy to come up with a song that best fit this week.

Turns out that it was a lot harder than I anticipated that it would be.

There aren't really a whole lot of songs out there that make references to wizards and witches.

There are a few of them, but for some reason, I couldn't find a way to write a deep, meaningful blog posting in response. I mean, yes, one song could be “Ding Dong The Witch Is Dead”, but I already talked about the Wizard of Oz.

Another possibility could have been 'Witch Doctor' by Ross Bagdasarian (under the name of David Seville), but that song doesn't really talk about witches. Santana's Black Magic Woman was another possibility, but truth be told, it isn't really one of my favourite Santana songs. There are others that I love even more.

So, you can imagine my frustrations over making the conclusion of Wizards and Witches week end on a high note.

I then took a break from writing for a while, and thought of a different way of looking at it. What if instead of being so literal with the whole idea of having a song that was about witches or wizards, I instead featured a song that was sung by a wizard?

Or, at the very least a singer who plays a wizard on television.

Enter Selena Gomez. Born in Texas on July 22, 1992, she is probably best known to many kids who regularly watch the Disney Channel as Alex Russo on this show.

Wizards Of Waverly Place premiered on the Disney Channel in 2007. The show was set in the heart of New York City, and featured a young girl and her two brothers (all having wizard powers). They were born to Theresa (a non-wizard mother), and Jerry (a former wizard who lost his powers after losing the Wizard Competition). The show is slated to air its final episode in late October 2011.

The show is a lot like other shows involving people who have magical powers. What makes this one different from the others is the Wizard Competition angle. It was explained in the show that Jerry and his two siblings were all wizards who could perform magic by reading spells and aiming magic wands when all three were in their teens. During their training, they competed against each other in the competition to see which one had the best skills because a family could only have one wizard per family (of course, I don't know why this is the case, as I've only maybe seen one or two episodes of the show tops, so maybe others could help me out by posting what they know in the comments section). Whatever the case, Jerry lost his powers when his brother Kelbo won the contest, and he settled into his mortal life by running a sandwich shop called 'The Sub Station'. Now, history is repeating itself as his three children, Alex (Gomez), Justin (David Henrie) and Max (Jake T. Austin) are currently competing to see which next generation would become the family wizard.

Along the way, each of the Russo kids get into little mishaps along the way with trying to keep their magic a secret from the human race, and dating adventures, and blah, blah, blah, you heard all this before.

This isn't going to be a blog entry on Wizards Of Waverly Place. Instead, it's going to be about Selena Gomez...specifically about her singing career, and one song that really stuck with me, and several other people, I'm sure.

Selena Gomez' recording career actually began approximately one year after the debut of Wizards Of Waverly Place, in 2008. She recorded a cover of the song Cruella De Vil for the DisneyMania 6 compilation album, and recorded another three songs for the Another Cinderella Story soundtrack, of which Gomez herself had a role on. She also recorded some songs for the Wizards of Waverly Place soundtrack, of which her cover of Pilot's 'Magic' had made an impression on the charts, peaking at #61. Not exactly the most promising start to a music career, but that was only the beginning.

In 2009, Selena Gomez formed the act Selena Gomez & The Scene. The band featured Gomez on lead vocals, Ethan Roberts on guitar, Joey Clement on bass, Greg Garman on drums, and Dane Forrest on keyboards. That same year, the band released their debut album, Kiss & Tell, which hit gold status in March 2010. The album had some minor hits, such as 'Falling Down' and 'Naturally', and a second album, A Year Without Rain, was released in late 2010.

But it wasn't until the band's third album (When The Sun Goes Down) that Selena Gomez's star power in the music industry really began to rise.

Although this single had barely managed to surpass the Top 20 (peaking at #21), it is the band's highest charting single, and I think a part of it is a combination of the song's message, as well as a shift in tone from the band's earlier efforts.

ARTIST: Selena Gomez & The Scene
SONG: Who Says
ALBUM: When The Sun Goes Down
DATE RELEASED: March 4, 2011

When Selena Gomez & The Scene released 'A Year Without Rain' just one year after their debut disc, Selena had wanted to take a break from releasing another album, saying that she was in no rush to do so. That was until she heard the song 'Who Says'. She credited the song as an inspiration, and said that it presented a positive message, and said that every time she sang the song, she felt a sense of empowerment, and always felt great after singing it during concert performances.

And why wouldn't she feel that way? If you watch the video, and listen closely to the lyrics, it's a great message. The song basically asks the question 'who says you're not perfect, who says you're not worth it?'

The answer is...nobody. If you don't allow them to, that is.

The song is a wonderful example of finding the self-esteem and self-worth that lies deep inside of us. In some cases, that self-esteem can be easy to bring out. In other cases, that self-esteem can be buried beneath walls ten feet thick.

Trust me. I don't need to go on about how my life was negatively affected by people who made it a mission to make other people feel badly about themselves. Been there, done that, wrote the numerous blog entries to detail it.

It's bad enough that high school is already tough enough with homework assignments, class projects, and time management. Having to undergo constant harassment by your classmates is just added frustration that nobody should have to experience. As Selena has said in interviews about the single, she said that in high school 'you're already trying to figure out who you are, and it doesn't help when people are constantly trying to tear you down.”

Wise words from a girl who happens to have been born eleven years after me.

What some may not realize is that the song 'Who Says' could actually be considered somewhat autobiographical for Selena Gomez herself, which makes the song even more powerful.

The song was recorded in late 2010/early 2011, and by the time it was released in March 2011, Selena found herself the victim of cyberbullying through Facebook, Twitter, and other websites. Many people took to the sites, completely trashing Selena at every angle. Criticizing her music abilities, trashing the way she looked, calling her all sorts of nasty names, some of which are so disgusting that I can't repeat them in this blog.

After the word got out that Selena Gomez had gotten into a relationship with current teen idol, Justin Bieber, the vitriol and poison increased, with some people attacking the couple, and even uttering death threats against Gomez. I imagine that some of them were a bit envious over Bieber getting involved with Gomez, but I wonder if maybe some just went along with the crowd in an effort to seem cool to the naysayers. I'm not exactly saying that this was the case, just that it wouldn't surprise me if that's what it was.

At any rate, with Selena going through cyberbullying by people whom she didn't know, the song 'Who Says' suddenly became a bit more personal. With all of these people saying that she wasn't pretty, and that she was all of these horrible things, I can't imagine that it was easy for her.

When she was promoting the single on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, she said this about the criticism on social networking sites;

Twitter and Facebook are really negative for me...within that world is such easy access to people's feelings. You can get a thousand wonderful comments but just one will throw you off, and that's how it is with me. Basically it's to the haters – the people trying to bring you down.”

You know, going on social networking sites, I see this sort of thing all the time. One person makes a comment that doesn't quite agree with what others are saying, and they are immediately mobbed by dissenters who call this person every name in the book, and spreading malicious lies about them online. In all honesty, I find that very sort of thing to be the ultimate act in cowardice and immaturity, and all I can do is try to make this blog not go down that road.

(And, to any readers here, if you do see me walking that line in any of my blog entries, please let me know!)

The thing that a lot of these cyberbullies don't seem to understand is exactly how much power they can possess just through hitting buttons on their keyboards or mobile phones. They aren't aware of the kind of impact their words can have on someone because they are not there to witness their reaction. I often hear people telling other people to just ignore any internet comment that is derogatory in nature to someone else, because as far as they are concerned, they are just words on a screen”.

Well, guess what? They are words on a screen. And those words are just as capable of shattering someone to the core as they would if they were said face to face.

A few years ago, when I was in high school, the Internet wasn't nearly as sophisticated as it is now. Back in 1997, most websites were done in basic HTML, and the only search engines that existed were Alta Vista and Yahoo. E-mail was fairly new back in those days, and the technology for e-mail was very limited.

Yet in 1997, I was the victim of cyberbullying when a thoughtless and cruel classmates sent me an e-mail, telling me that the school would be a better place if I killed myself. Nice, huh?

Fortunately, because of the basic technology that we had, the e-mail address could easily be traced, and the perpetrators were suspended from school. But that message really hurt me, and it left me shaken.

It wasn't really until some time passed that I realized just how insecure the senders of that message must have really been. They were the ones who had done something wrong, not me. I certainly didn't feel as though I was deserving of such thoughtless criticism, and in the end, they were the ones who looked bad.

And as far as Selena Gomez goes, she's the one with television success, three successful albums, and a lifestyle that most 19-year-old girls could only dream of. I guess her story is one example of how 'living well is the best revenge'.

'Who Says' was a simple song with a powerful message, and it came out at a time when other female artists released their own empowerment anthems. In 2011 alone, we saw anti-bullying and self-esteem messages in song releases from Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Ke$ha, and Pink. It could have been easy for Selena's song to become buried in the crowd.

But I think it stands out for a couple of reasons.

The song is actually Selena's first real ballad song. Her previous efforts were driven by electronic beats and rock guitars, and were more fast-paced. Not that there was anything wrong with that, but sometimes the message of the songs can get lost in translation or drowned out if the beats are too heavy. With Who Says, the tempo of the song is just right for the real message to come out.

Secondly, the message that Selena sings about is all about acceptance of who you are, and not what other people want to believe about you. In the song, she stands up to everyone who ever criticized her, and in the video stands in front of a billboard that states that she has been 'beautiful since '92', and really, as long as she feels that way about herself, then everyone else may as well just keep their nasty opinions to themselves. She isn't interested in hearing them.

Just as I'm not interested in taking any more abuse. From anyone.

There's a difference between constructive criticism, and criticism that is designed solely to hurt the other person, and make them think that they are not worthy of getting any positive attention. It took me a while, but I have a good idea of distinguishing between the two.

And, you know, I think Selena Gomez does too.

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