Welcome to Hook & Reel, a series showcasing music that’s guaranteed to catch your ear.
Selena Gomez and Marshmello’s “Wolves” is poised to overtake the pop music world this week (Wednesday, 10/25 to be exact). Therefore, it’s imperative we look back at the pop leviathan’s collaborations, both conspicuous (through features) and inconspicuous (the producers and songwriters behind her own music). Almost a decade into her flourishing, chart-dominating musical career, Selena has partnered with a bevy of talented musicians to help diversify her fanbase while refining and maturing her sound. We’ve outlined eight of her strongest musical alliances below:
When The Sun Goes Down, Sel’s last album with her band The Scene in 2011, showed the singer enlisting an array of high-profile songwriters and collaborators. The biggest surprise came in the form of album track “Whiplash,” a song the legendary Queen Britney Spears had originally penned for her own Femme Fatale record. The track is peak early-2010s Spears, complete with crunchy, pulsating synths and a spoken word pre-chorus in a hokey British accent. Though “Whiplash” was never picked as a single, it remains one of the stronger non-single offerings in Selena’s catalogue. Also, with the subsequent EDM-infused full-length (and Selena’s first as a solo artist) Stars Dance playing like the little sister to Brit’s own Femme Fatale, this collab may have had a bigger impact on Selena’s career than originally anticipated.
7. Cashmere Cat
Why “Trust Nobody,” Cashmere Cat’s first single to his highly underrated album 9, failed to become a bigger hit is beyond comprehension. Cashmere Cat’s acid-washed island synths float smoothly underneath Selena’s lush, playful purr, and Tory Lanez skillfully trades off verses with Gomez with his own charismatic croon. It was also perfectly timed release, dropped early November last year in the middle of cuffing season, which made the theme of low-key monogamy even more relevant.
6. Ester Dean
Ester Dean originally helped pen the exotic and euphoric “Come & Get It” for Rihanna, but when RiRi turned down the track it landed in Selena’s lap, who turned it into her first top 10 hit in the summer of 2013. The song served as a fantastic precursor to Stars Dance, which featured a kaleidoscope of different styled pop songs all geared towards the dance floor. And though the sensuality and swagger of the song seemed a bit of a far leap from the starlet’s Disney-leaning songs of the past, Selena owned it with grace and poise.
Kygo’s top 10 smash “It Ain’t Me” put Mumford-and-Sons-styled finger-picking over a thrumming trop-house beat, with a fist pumping, scream-to-the-heavens kind of pop chorus. It was only fitting then, that he picked Ms. Gomez to carry the vocals. And carry them she did, her normally-saccharine voice seething in liberated grief whether she was shouting “who’s waking up to drive you home when you’re drunk and all alone?” or growling “I’m gonna leave behind the worst of us.” She had delved in trop-house before, but never with such folk sensibilities, showing the diva could easily hold her own over an acoustic guitar (Revival acoustic please)?
4. Charli XCX
“Good For You” may have been Selena’s first top 5 hit on the Hot 100, but “Boom Clap” pop songstress Charli XCX helped prove that the success of “Good For You” wasn’t just a fluke. She did so by penning the second, equally successful single to Revival, titled “Same Old Love.” Set off by a waltzing piano riff and ghoulish synths, the hit smash found Gomez curling her lip at a former flame, kicking them to the curb while lamenting all of the unfulfilling romances in her life. The song matched “Good For You” on the Hot 100, peaking at No. 5 and actually stayed a full 28 weeks on the chart, the longest of any Selena Gomez single. It also became the singer’s highest charting hit on the Radio Songs chart, peaking at No. 3.
Songwriter and up-and-coming pop star Leland had already paved quite a path for himself in top 40 prior to sitting down with Gomez, penning hits for the likes of Troye Sivan and Daya. With Gomez, he helped craft her latest single, the deliciously dark “Fetish,” and (hopefully) set the course for the singer’s musical style for the near future. In “Fetish,” Gomez dominantly asserts her sensuality over a molten bassline and stuttered percussion, in complete control of her beau and unashamedly basking in their obsession. The humid and demented production, combined with the quirky vocal flourishes, put the song less in the vein of Gomez’s earlier work and more towards some of R&B’s biggest modern innovators, like FKA Twigs, Banks, and Selena’s boyfriend The Weeknd. The track never broke the top 20, but it was refreshing to see the pop star take such bold risks in her music when many of her peers were playing it safe.
2. Rock Mafia
You could argue that the success of Selena Gomez & The Scene would not have been as immediate were it not for Rock Mafia, the production outfit who’ve had their hand in every album Selena has recorded since the dawn of her career. They’re the pop-rock fizz behind “Tell Me Something I Don’t Know,” Sel’s first song to hit the Hot 100, and they put the shimmering, four-to-the-floor beat in her first top 40 hit “Naturally.” They were behind the boards for Selena Gomez and the Scene’s biggest single “Love You Like A Love Song,” and they were the symphonic, dramatic thrum in “The Heart Wants What It Wants.” They most recently worked with Selena on the final single from Revival, “Kill Em’ With Kindness.” Though it’s uncertain at the moment whether they’ll have a hand in her next record, they’ve cemented themselves as key players in the legacy of Selena Gomez’s career.
Before Revival, it was hard to put a finger on what exactly set Gomez apart from other pop stars, other than a sort of subtle, ethereal charm she injected into her songs that made her seem a tier above the rest. Then, she teamed up with songwriter extraordinaires Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, and they extracted that endearing weirdness and made it the focal point of her new music, giving the singer a solidified sound while simultaneously testing the boundaries of modern pop. Sel’s silken exhale in “Good For You,” her Prince-lite whisper-croon in “Hands To Myself,” and her Regina-Spektor-meets-Taylor-Swift sing-talking in “Bad Liar” are all in part due to the finesse of both Tranter and Michaels. They’ve put the pen behind Selena’s most popular and critically-acclaimed work, and though not much has been spoken of regarding Selena’s still untitled new album, it’s fair to assume they’ll be lending their hand to help further cement the star’s now signature style.