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Amor Prohibido (song)

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"Amor Prohibido"
A Hispanic woman, who is wearing a black spandex that is underneath a golden-plain shirt, is tilting her head towards the viewer of the picture and posing.
Single by Selena
from the album Amor Prohibido
B-side Bidi Bidi Bom Bom
Released April 13, 1994 (1994-04-13)
Format CD single
Recorded 1994
Genre Mexican cumbia
Length 2:50
Label EMI Latin
Writer(s) Selena, A.B. Quintanilla III, Pete Astudillo
Producer(s) Quintanilla III, Abraham Quintanilla Jr, Jorge Alberto Pino, Bebu Silvetti, Gregg Vickers
Selena singles chronology
"Donde Quiera Que Estés"
"Amor Prohibido"
"Bidi Bidi Bom Bom"
Music video
"Amor Prohibido" on YouTube

"Amor Prohibido" (English: Forbidden Love) is a song recorded by American Tejano singer Selena for her fourth studio album, Amor Prohibido (1994). Released as the lead single by EMI Latin on April 13, 1994, "Amor Prohibido" was written by her brother-music producer A.B. Quintanilla and Selena y Los Dinos backup vocalist Pete Astudillo. Selena wanted to record a song about the true story of her grandparents—who fell in love despite being of different social classes. Since its release, the lyrical content and themes explored on "Amor Prohibido" has fostered various opinions by authors, musicologists, and journalists who found themes similar to those facing the LGBT community while others expressed it to be a Romeo & Juliet-esque recording, among other popular interpretations of the song by the media.

"Amor Prohibido" is a Mexican cumbia dance-pop song and received widespread acclaim with music critics citing the single as one of the most popular tracks recorded by Selena. The song peaked at number one on the United States Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart for nine consecutive weeks; her first as a solo act. It received the Tejano Music Award for the Single of the Year, Regional Mexican Song of the Year at the Lo Nuestro Awards and Billboard Latin Music Awards, and became the first Spanish-language recording to receive a Broadcast Pop Music Award in 1996. Selena had the most successful Latin singles of 1994 with "Amor Prohibido". Sales of the song represented Tejano music's first commercial success in Puerto Rico. Many musicians have since recorded the song and released it on their respective albums including Mexican pop singer Thalía, glam rock band Moderatto, Finnish singer Meiju Suvas, American entertainer Jennifer Lopez, Mexican pop singer Samo, and Broadway singer Shoshana Bean.

Background and production[edit]

The writing process for "Amor Prohibido" was requested by Selena, she wanted to record a song based on the true story of her grandparents—who fell in love despite being of different social classes.[1] She pitched the idea to her brother–music producer A.B. Quintanilla who began writing the track with Selena y Los Dinos backup vocalist Pete Astudillo.[1] Recording sessions took place in a San Antonio, Texas recording studio.[2] Her husband, Chris Pérez wrote, in his 2012 book about his and Selena's relationship, that during the recording session for the song "there was a noticeable difference between her voice on ["Amor Prohibido"] and Entre a Mi Mundo (1992), especially."[2] He further wrote "I can't say that it was an improvement, exactly, because I always thought that Selena's voice sounded incredible. It's just that her voice was richer and more mature than before, and her singing was more emotional and powerful as a result."[2]

During the recording session, Selena added the ad libitum "oh baby" onto "Amor Prohibido", which A.B. believed the song would "not have been the same if she had not added the 'oh baby' part."[3] In a 2002 interview, A.B. confessed to wanting "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" released as the lead single but found that Selena and EMI Latin pushed for "Amor Prohibido" instead.[4] "Amor Prohibido" was released on April 13, 1994 in the United States and Mexico.[5]



"Amor Prohibido" is a Spanish-language Mexican cumbia dance-pop song with Tejano music influences.[6][7] Mario Tarradell of The Dallas Morning News wrote that "Amor Prohibido" is a "synthesizer-heavy cumbia piece that's so catchy it's sinful".[8] Tarradell also called the song "Tejano-like",[9] and a "pop-styled opus".[10] The Daily Democrat wrote that "Amor Prohibido" had a mixture of sounds that included a modernized version of cumbia music which itself added the sounds of guitars, accordions, bass guitar, flutes, drums, and other percussion.[11] Paul Verna, singles editorial for Billboard magazine, called the song a "spunky cumbia",[12] while John Lannert, also from Billboard, called it a "peppy cumbia".[13] Written in the key of E minor, the beat is set in common time and moves at a moderate 90 beats per minute.[14] Interviewed for the San Antonio Current, A.B. confessed that he added the cencerro which he believed grabbed Cubans and Puerto Rican people to gravitate towards Selena's music.[15] He further said that he played the cencerro in a salsa-style and that it wasn't "coincidental". He believed by adopting this musical style to "Amor Prohbibido" and Selena's repertoire, the singer "went from selling 25,000-50,000 to more than 500,000." copies of her albums.[15]

Lyrical interpretation[edit]

A 15 second sample of "Amor Prohibido" where the chorus of "forbidden love" and societal attitudes of the protagonist's relationship is heard.

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Lyrically, musicologist Howard Blumenthal interpreted "Amor Prohibido" as a "love forbidden" story by an unprivileged girl who is separated by social class from her love interest and finds that true love is what really matters.[16] Marco Torres of the Houston Press saw similarities between the lyrical content of "Amor Prohibido" and that of Selena's and Pérez's relationship—who were banned from having a romantic relationship because Pérez was a rocker by Selena's father–manager Abraham Quintanilla, Jr.; who later accepted the relationship.[17][18][19] The lyrics have also drawn similarities among female teenagers' "trouble" partners and their parents forbidding their relationship.[20]

The lyrical content of "Amor Prohibido" has foster various opinions from several authors, journalist, and musicologist who found themes in the lyrics to those facing the LGBT community. It has since become an anthem for the LGBT community because of its lyrics.[6] According to Deborah Paredez in her 2009 book Selenidad, the lyrics of "Amor Prohibido" invokes "a legibly queer text" that resonates with the LGBT community.[21] This was echoed by Emma Perez in her book The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History (1999), who found that the LGBT community reconceptualized the song and found that the recording was most popular with drag queens at nightclubs.[22] Perez further explained that the lyrical content of forbidden love between two people of different social class was altered with prohibited love between same-sex couples.[nb 1] Alejandra Molina of The Orange County Register reported on a tribute to Selena by LGBT fans in Santa Ana, California who found the singer's songs to be "ambiguous" and that "Amor Prohibido" was interpreted "as a love that is forbidden to due to a person's sexuality, race or class."[23]

Other music critics have called the song a Romeo & Juliet-esque recording with society opposing a relationship based on socio-economic status or a look into modern society's views on romantic relationships.[6][19][24][25] Author Ellie D. Hernández wrote in her book about Chicano culture that "Amor Prohibido" spoke of "social and cultural desire that transcends the boundaries of romantic love".[24] Hernández believed that the central theme of the song dwells on social divisions, class, and race "that divides [Selena] from her beloved." which "suggests hegemonic crisis informing Selena's lamentations."[24] Hernández believes that the lyrics spoke about modern societal views on romantic relationships and that one must "live in accordance" to those views or face "emotional banishment from her family and culture."[24] Hernández ended her interpretation of the lyrics that "risking everything for this love is not at all an innocent choice but a decision abundant with agency and consciousness that begins as a consequence of the forbidden."[24]

Critical reception[edit]

The majority of contemporary reviews were positive, with "Amor Prohibido" receiving a widespread critical acclaim. In Chican@s in the Conversations (2007), Elizabeth Rodriguez Kessler and Anne Perrin called the song "soap- operaish".[26] South African magazine Drum, called "Amor Prohibido" a "gently rocking song".[27] Leila Cobo, head of the Latin music editorial division of Billboard magazine, called the song "catchy".[28] Marco Torres of the Houston Press called "Amor Prohibido" Selena's "most personal song".[17] Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune, wrote that "Amor Prohibido" had "a bit more contemporary snap to it."[29] Mary Talbot of The New York Daily News, wrote that "Amor Prohibido" and "Como la Flor" (1992) are "two straight-up Tejano hits" and believed it to have been "requiem to Selena's career".[30] Michael Clark of the Houston Chronicle, wrote that A.B. "added even more world-music flourishes" to "Amor Prohibido", "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom", "No Me Queda Más", and "Fotos y Recuerdos".[31] John Lannert, from Billboard, called "Amor Prohibido" a "great smash" during its reign atop the Hot Latin Songs chart.[32] BuzzFeed contributor Brian Galindo, called the song an "awesome ode to star-crossed lovers everywhere."[33] Ashley Velez of Neon Tommy called the track "a true testament to the forbidden love" which "proves that love conquers all."[19]

The Daily Vault called the song a "seamless track".[34] Ed Morales wrote that "Amor Prohibido" is a "classic mass market hit that inhabits the memory, easily floating in the summer air of radios on the streets."[25] Don McLeese of the Austin American Statesmen, called the recording "compelling".[35] Ramiro Burr, also a Latin music editorial for Billboard magazine, believed that the song "marked Selena's ascendancy".[36] Burr, also writing for the San Antonio Express-News, wrote that "[Selena] balanced torchy ballads full of hurt and pain such as "Amor Prohibido" with fun dance cumbias with a sense of humor."[37] Burr wrote in the San Antonio Express-News that "songs such as "Baila Esta Cumbia," "La Carcacha," "Como la Flor" and "Amor Prohibido" had that instant appeal, that memorable melodic hook.",[38] and that "Amor Prohibido" and "No Me Queda Más" were "heartbreaking ballads".[39]

Chart performance[edit]

"Amor Prohibido" debuted on the Hot Latin Songs chart at number 13 on the week of April 23, 1994.[40] It its second week on the chart, the song climbed to number five.[41] "Amor Prohibido" remained at number four for two consecutive weeks, starting on the week of May 7, 1994.[42] When "Amor Prohibido" climbed to the third slot of the Hot Latin Songs chart on the week of May 21, 1994, John Lannert predicted that it would top the chart in two weeks.[43] The song peaked at number one on the week of June 11, 1994, depositing La Mafia's "Vida" from the top spot,[44] which in turn dethroned Selena's collaboration with the Barrio Boyzz's single "Donde Quiera Que Estés" on May 7, 1994.[42] In its fourth week atop the chart, Lannert pointed out that there were "no challengers in sight" and predicted that it would remain atop for an additional two weeks.[45] During its fifth week atop the Hot Latin Songs chart, Lannert noticed that Cuban singer Jon Secada's "Si Te Vas" single was climbing the charts and believe it would knock "Amor Prohibido" off the top in three weeks.[46] On it's seven week atop the chart, Secada's "Si Te Vas" climbed to the second position and Ricardo Montaner's single "Quisiera" jumped to the third position, Lannert predicted any two would displace "Amor Prohibido" from the top spot in the coming weeks.[32] The following week, Lannert provided data inquires for "Amor Prohibido" showing that the single "no longer appears to be under threat" even though it lost 65 points from the Nielsen ratings; it had a wide gap of 350 points from Secada's number two single "Si Te Vas".[47] After nine weeks atop the Hot Latin Songs chart, "Amor Prohibido" was displaced by Secada's "Si Te Vas" on the week of August 13, 1994.[48] Selena had the most successful singles of 1994 with "Amor Prohibido".[49]

Selena was shot and killed by Yolanda Saldívar, her friend and former manager of the singer's Selena Etc. clothing boutiques, on March 31, 1995. Four of her singles, "No Me Queda Más", "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom", "Como la Flor", and "Amor Prohibido", re-entered the Hot Latin Tracks and the Regional Mexican Airplay chart in the issue dated April 15, 1995 on Billboard magazine.[50] Billboard magazine posthumously named Selena the Top Artist of the 1990s, due to her fourteen top-ten singles in the Hot Latin Songs chart (including seven number-one hits).[51]


Both American Broadway singer Shoshana Bean and American entertainer Jennifer Lopez performed and recorded the song. The latter performed the song during the 2015 Billboard Latin Music Awards with Selena y Los Dinos band members.

"Amor Prohibido" is Selena's best-selling cumbia single, according to sales figures analyzed by Guadalupe San Miguel in 2002.[52] The song also became the singer's "biggest hit of her career" for staying atop the Hot Latin Songs chart for twelve nonconsecutive weeks.[53] Music critics have called "Amor Prohibido" Selena's "best known" recording and love track and as well as one of her signature songs or her most successful single.[nb 2] Emmanuel Hapsis wrote on the KQED-FM radio webpage that anyone visiting a karaoke bar will most likely hear someone sing "Amor Prohibido" or her posthumously released single "Dreaming of You" (1995).[57] To date, "Amor Prohibido" continues to receive extensive airplay in South Texas and at Tejano nightclubs.[58] Sales of Amor Prohibido and its titular single represented Tejano music's first commercial success in Puerto Rico.[59] "Con Tanto Amor Medley", a 2002 promotional single released from Ones, is a mash-up of "Amor Prohibido", "Si Una Vez" and "Como la Flor", which was released to favorable criticism.[60] An editor from La Prensa believed Selena had put an "imprint on popular music" because of "Amor Prohibido", "La Carcacha", "Como la Flor", and "La Llamada".[61] In November 2012, Mexican comedian La Coacha released a satire video replicating the music video of "Amor Prohibido" for American actor Ryan Gosling.[62] María Herrera-Sobek wrote in her book Chicano folklore: a handbook that "Como la Flor" and "Amor Prohibido" achieved national and international success.[63] Burr also believed "Amor Prohibido", among other chart-topping Selena songs, is her "fans favorite".[64] Mario Tarradell of The Dallas Morning News believed, among other singles also released from the same album, that "the doors were wide open" when "Amor Prohibido" was released.[65] Sally Jacobs of the Sun Sentinel wrote that "Amor Prohibido" is immensely popular in Spanish-speaking countries.[66]

The song has received a number of awards and nominations including winning the Broadcast Pop Music Awards twice in 1995 and 1996.[67] "Amor Prohibido" became the first and only Spanish-language recording to win a Broadcast Music Award in the pop category based on radio performances.[68] The track also won the Regional Mexican Song of the Year at the 1994 Billboard Latin Music Awards.[69] It won the same category at the 1995 Lo Nuestro Awards.[70] At the 1995 Tejano Music Awards, it won Single of the Year.[71] During the decade-ballots at the 2010 Tejano Music Awards, "Amor Prohibido" was nominated for Best 1990s Songs, though "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom" won the award.[71] Since its release, the song has been included on many music critics "best of Selena songs" list including the Latino Post (at number five),[72] OC Weekly (at number one),[73] BuzzFeed (at number two),[33] Latina (at number two),[74] and Neon Tommy (at number two).[19]

Salsa singer Yolanda Duke recorded the song for the tribute album Familia RMM Recordando a Selena (1996).[75] Mexican pop singer Thalía performed and recorded "Amor Prohibido" for the live televised tribute concert Selena ¡VIVE! in April 2005. The song was later included in her album El Sexto Sentido (2005). On March 30, 2013, the singer performed a "bouncy" version of the song during her Houston, Texas concert.[76] Mexican singer Yuridia performed "Amor Prohibido" in 2014 during her Tour Esencial.[77] American trio Brisa recorded "Amor Ilegal", which was influenced by "Amor Prohibido" and became a popular radio song in Ecuador.[78] Mexican Spanish-language pop rock band Moderatto recorded the song for their album Malditos Pecadores (2014).[79] Colombian singer Shakira sung the verse–chorus during a interview in 2002 for Univision's Otro Rollo.[80] Finnish recording artist Meiju Suvas, recorded the song in Finnish called "Kielletty Rakkus".[81] Mexican singer Samo recorded a duet version of "Amor Prohibido" for the 2012 posthumous remix album Enamorada de Ti.[82] Samo told the Ecuadoran newspaper El Telégrafo that he had always dreamed of recording a duet with Selena and that "Amor Prohibido" was one of his favorite songs.[83] He said he felt the "presence of Selena" as soon as he put his headphones on and began recording.[83] Joey Guerra of the San Antonio Express-News believed that the duet version "proved a solid preview for the album" and that its "wistful lyrics work nicely as a duet with Samo". Guerra described the song as a "gentle pop-rock arrangement" and felt that this arrangement might have been how it was intended.[84] Nilan Lovelace of Reporter Magazine called the duet version of "Amor Prohibido" an "album favorite" and believed it to be the type of music that Selena would be recording today.[85] Other artists who recorded or covered the song includes Broadway singer Shoshana Bean,[86] African American entertainer Keke Palmer,[87] and American entertainer Jennifer Lopez released as "A Selena Tribute" (2015).[88]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Emma Perez' assumptions were originated from a article written by Deborah Paredez in October 1999 in The Washington Post as well as other authors who wrote about Mexican American and Selena's sexuality in terms of her clothing, dancing styles, and composition structure and interpretative lyrical content of her songs.[22]
  2. ^ Musicologist Howard Blumenthal called "Amor Prohibido" as "one of Selena's best-love songs".[16] Publisher John Murray called the song Selena's "best-known" and that it "contained much of what is now known as the unique "Selena Sound".[54] Billboard Latin music contributor Leila Cobo called "Amor Prohibido" as one of Selena's signature tunes during her review of the posthumous song "Con Tanto Amor Medley" found on the 2002 compilation album Ones, which featured the track as a mashup along with "Como la Flor" and "Si Una Vez".[55] Kelly Brooks of the Ruidoso News wrote about A.B.'s band and said the following "As a member of Los Dinos, Quintanilla would play bass guitar, produce and write songs for Selena, which became successful singles such as "Como la Flor," "Amor Prohibido" and "No Me Queda Más."[56]


  1. ^ a b Arrarás 1997, p. 50.
  2. ^ a b c Pérez 2012.
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  9. ^ Tarradell, Mario (July 16, 1995). "Dreaming of Selena A new album celebrates what she was but only hints at what she could have become". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved November 24, 2011. (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ Tarradell, Mario (April 4, 1999). "For La Mafia, breaking up isn't hard to do". The Dallas Morning News. Retrieved November 24, 2011. (subscription required (help)). 
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