When Edgar Barrera found out that Tainy was producing Selena Gomez‘s first-ever Spanish-language project, he called immediately. “I told him that he could count on me for anything,” Barrera remembers. “For me, it was super important to be part of something as big as this because I like to work with artists that really value Latin music, and Selena does.”
In 2019, the producer-songwriter flew to Miami, where Tainy and his NEON16 team were hosting writing sessions for Gomez. There, he met with the rest of the writing crew, including Elena Rose and Kris Floyd, who had already penned “De Una Vez,” the first single from Gomez’s eventual Revelación EP.
With Tainy at the helm, the songwriters and NEON16 producers (including Jota Rosa, Daramola and Albert Hype) spent the rest of 2019 and all of 2020 working on Gomez’s long-overdue Spanish project — one she had teased a full decade ago.
“Can’t wait for y’all to hear the Spanish record … it’s sounding so cool,” the Texas-born A-list pop star tweeted back in 2011, and since then, her loyal fanbase has been waiting. Now, 10 years later, Gomez — whose paternal grandparents are Mexican — is set to drop her Spanish EP on Friday. The seven-track set features collaborations with Rauw Alejandro and Myke Towers and is produced by Puerto Rican hitmaker Tainy, with whom she’s collaborated in the past on “I Can’t Get Enough” with J Balvin and Benny Blanco.
“It’s a huge responsibility and an honor at the same time that she trusted me and my team to work on this,” Tainy says. “Selena Gomez is a superstar. She’s somebody that has amazing fans that really know her music and know what she’s about. Now we’re diving into a totally different arena, and if it’s not done the right way, it can go south super fast.”
Gomez has performed in Spanish in the past. In 2018, the songstress guested on DJ Snake’s “Taki Taki” alongside Ozuna and Cardi B, which scored Gomez a No. 1 hit on both Billboard‘s Hot Latin Songs chart for 13 nonconsecutive weeks and the Latin Rhythm Airplay chart for two straight weeks. And, with her pop-rock tween band Selena Gomez & The Scene, she released a few Spanish-language singles such as “Dices,” “Fantasma de Amor” and “Un Año Sin Lluvia.”
But Revelación is more than just a few translated-to-Spanish singles; it’s Gomez’s first tangible introduction to the Latin realm. “This has been something I’ve wanted to do for 10 years, working on a Spanish project, because I’m so, so proud of my heritage, and just genuinely felt like I wanted this to happen,” Gomez said in an interview with Apple Music. “And it happened, and I feel like it’s the perfect timing.”
For her EP, she surrounded herself with Latin creators — from Venezuelan singer-songwriter Elena Rose to music video directors Los Perez and Nogari — to help bring to life a celebration of her Latin roots via enchanting imagery that paid homage to Latin America’s magical realism and lyrics that would resonate with not only her Latin fans, but fans all over the world.
“She wanted us to give life to Selena Gomez in Spanish,” Rose tells Billboard. “For it to be a direct translation of who she is when she’s singing in English. She’s all about empowerment, compassion, being a warrior and being vulnerable. So the lyrics were very important here.”
Rose, a rising songwriter who has penned tracks for Daddy Yankee, Becky G and Jennifer Lopez, co-wrote six out of the seven tracks on Revelación. “De Una Vez” was the first one born for the project and was released earlier this year. “I was sitting on the floor in Tainy’s studio and crying my eyes out. I was going through a breakup and I thought, ‘How can I create a song where her and I can understand each other although we come from totally different worlds?’ It has to be a universal song that all women from around the world can identify with. So that’s when ‘de una vez por todas, soy más fuerte sola (I’m stronger alone)’ was born.”
Tainy adds: “‘De Una Vez’ is one of those tracks that really represents Selena. She sings about feelings and her tone is so amazing that I wanted to embrace that on the song, because when you have something that’s too uptempo or too hard-knocking or drum-heavy, you probably wouldn’t appreciate her tone. I just wanted to focus on what she’s saying.”
Then came her second single, the Alejandro-assisted “Baila Conmigo,” a more rhythmic pop tune penned by Barrera, Rose and Floyd. “It’s the only song I participated in, and when we were writing it, I remember I asked, ‘Does she speak Spanish?” Barrera recalls. “I think when you’re writing for someone who isn’t fluent in Spanish, you have to write songs with words that are simple. So we wrote ‘baila baila baila conmigo, baila, baila que yo te sigo’ a hook that’s so catchy and easy for her English-speaking fans to sing along to.” The track currently sits at No. 6 on Billboard‘s Latin Airplay chart (dated March 13).
Singing in Spanish well was a priority for Selena, says Tainy, who worked on the project remotely due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “She’s always saying, ‘I don’t think I sound that good,’ but when she sent one of the first recordings back, I had just one minor edit on a word that we could redo, but overall it sounded so good. It was mind-blowing because it’s not a language she speaks every day, but to execute it so well it just goes to show you how professional and dedicated she is.”
At the end of the day, says Rose, “We wanted her to receive the recognition and credibility she deserves in our world because it’s hard to come in when you’ve been singing in English all your life.”
“She’s breaking down boundaries and showing that it doesn’t matter if you’re born and raised in Latin America to be able to sing in Spanish and eliminates the idea that you’re not supposed to sing in Spanish if you’re not a Latin artist,” Tainy adds. “Revelación shows you that you can do whatever you want in music and just be free.”