Selena Gomez Returns: The Inside Story of Her One-Two Punch of New Tracks

Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter describe co-writing the pop superstar's empowering new songs: "She wants to let people know that she’s strong," says Michaels.

Although Selena Gomez has remained a steady presence in pop music throughout the 2010s, this month marks four years since her last proper full-length, 2015’s Revival.

Fans will not have to wait for much longer for a follow-up: this week, Gomez returned with a new song, “Lose You to Love Me,” on Wednesday (Oct. 23) -- and after giving listeners 24 hours to digest the gently sweeping ballad, surprised them with another new track, the more uptempo “Look at Me Now,” on Thursday.

The double release -- one a traditional single that was teased on social media since last week, the other a surprise release that caught the pop world off-guard -- precedes a new album from Gomez that will apparently expand upon the two songs’ shared meditation of self-growth.

“I think they make a logical pairing because of the topics,” Julia Michaels, who co-wrote both “Lose You to Love Me” and “Look at Her Now,” tells Billboard. “One is talking about needing to let go of something in order to find power, and the next one is owning that power. I think that’s the main reason why they work so well together.”

Michaels says that the two songs were written during separate studio sessions earlier this year with Gomez, co-writer Justin Tranter and herself -- and that, if she remembers correctly, “Lose You to Love Me” was written by the trio on Valentine’s Day. “We were in the studio,” says Michaels, “and all of us were not in a relationship at the time, and we were just being curmudgeons about love that day. We were talking about things that were going on in our lives, and things that we wanted to overcome, and that’s how ‘Lose You to Love Me’ came about. The song is about letting go of things that hold you back in order to find your self-worth -- that inner love for yourself -- again.”

Michaels and Tranter have written with Gomez on some of the latter’s biggest hits, including “Hands to Myself” and “Bad Liar,” and Tranter tells Billboard that the February session for “Lose You to Love Me,” which also included production-songwriting duo Mattman & Robin, was the first day the group had written together in a very long time, and resulted from a piercingly honest catch-up session.

“Between Selena’s producing and movie schedule and Julia’s touring, the three of us hadn’t been in the same writing room together in quite a while, and that was the first thing we did,” Tranter says of the new single. “We started talking about our lives and what we’re feeling and going through… For ‘Lose You to Love Me,’ Mattman & Robin started playing some chords that were matching the emotion of what we were talking about, and then 45 minutes later, you have a song.” (Finneas, Billie Eilish’s brother, was later brought in to contribute additional production with Mattman & Robin.)

While the lyrics of “Lose You to Love Me” have already caused widespread online speculation as to which specific relationship Gomez is singing about, the sparse, contemplative ballad also represents a provocative single selection from a Top 40 radio mainstay. Matt LaMotte, SVP of Pop/Rock Marketing at Interscope, confirms that “Lose You to Love Me” will be the focus track with radio and digital service providers; he also points out that Gomez’s Revival album (which was her first for Interscope) was also preceded by a single with a slower tempo, “Good For You” featuring A$AP Rocky, which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

“That was an unconventional first look for that campaign, which Selena felt really strongly about, too,” says LaMotte. “And I think there are parallels between that campaign, and the aesthetic that was led into by the singles of that record, and with this record.”

“I think it’s really brave and beautiful to want to do a song this intimate and vulnerable for her first [single],” Michaels says. “I think she’s had a really long year, and a long year of self-reflection, and … I think she’s really found that strength in time, and now she wants to sing about it. She wants to let people know that she’s strong and that she’s come the f--k back.”

Meanwhile, “Look at Her Now” is a kinetic dance-pop track built around whirring production and a stuttering vocal hook that Michaels says was conjured up during a session with herself, Gomez, Tranter and Ian Kirkpatrick, who produced “Bad Liar.” The decision to release the song and its Sophie Muller-directed, choreo-heavy music video 24 hours after “Lose You to Love Me” as an unexpected one-two punch came directly from Gomez.

“When she had the idea to put both of these songs out at the same time, we went back and forth on it a bit as far as the strategy elements -- but it felt so true to who she is as a person and artist right now,” says LaMotte. “It really represents two sides of where she’s at with her life right now. And I think those two sides give you a sense of what the rest of the album campaign is gonna be about, too.”

Over the past two years, Gomez has released a handful of solo singles, and popped up on collaborative tracks like Benny Blanco’s “I Can’t Get Enough” and DJ Snake’s “Taki Taki,” in between film projects like The Dead Don’t Die and executive-producing 13 Reasons Why for Netflix. While her next album does not have an announced release date, Gomez has confirmed that it is finished, and fans can expect her musical output to ramp up in the coming months. “I can definitely tell you that we have worked on a lot more amazing music together, and I am so proud of what we’ve created,” Tranter says.

“I can’t go super deep into the rollout,” says LaMotte. “But everything that we aspire to with Selena, we want every move to have a purpose to it. Our focus is on these two songs for right now, and when the next moment comes, I would expect it to feel as loud as this one feels.”