In just a few months, it'll be five years since Selena Gomez released Revival, still her most recent album. But she's hardly been absent from pop over that time, releasing a steady stream of singles and collaborations, consistently showcasing new sides and shades to her sound. And her latest hit might be on its way to being her biggest since the Revival era.
"Lose You to Love Me," one of two new songs released by Gomez last week, debuts at No. 15 on the Hot 100. That'd be an impressive landing for the pop star in nearly any context — the second-best chart debut of her career — but it's especially so considering the song was released last Wednesday, meaning it had less than two full days of streams and downloads (and less than five full days of radio play) to work with in its debut frame.
What is the song's excellent performance due to? And does she already have another hit ready to go right after it? Billboard staffers debate this questions and more below.
1. So in a debut week that includes less than two full days of tracking, "Lose You to Love Me" has already outpaced every Selena Gomez single as a lead artist since "It Ain't Me" hit No. 17 in May 2017. How surprised are you at the song having such a resounding debut?
Tatiana Cirisano: I expected “Lose” to debut 10 spots or so lower, but still, I’m not too surprised. Even while releasing hit collaborations like “It Ain’t Me” and “I Can’t Get Enough” Selena has kept her personal life private to an impressive degree for the past two years, and I think listeners are hungry to hear from her, if not at least curious to know how she’s doing. As someone who once held the title of the most-followed person on Instagram, Selena has only recently returned from a planned break from social media — which made the teasers and clips for “Lose” feel all the more like treasures.
There’s also the Bieber-sized elephant in the room. It’s hard not to read “Lose” as a goodbye to Gomez’s famous ex, and even those who aren’t interested in her music probably gave the song a curiosity listen for the gossip factor alone. Of course, I’m not giving enough credit to the quality of the song itself here — but more on that later.
Eric Frankenberg: Kinda surprised but not really. I was more surprised to watch her momentum cool after the Revival singles. She had some good features and surprising artistic choices (see below) since then but the heat from “Good for You” and “Same Old Love” made me think she might be poised for a non-stop Rihanna-style takeover of Top 40 radio and the Hot 100. Perhaps with a new album on the way, the new single(s) will revive (pun unintended but I’m proud of it regardless) some of that energy.
Josh Glicksman: A passing eyebrow-raise level of surprised. It’s Selena’s first proper album rollout since 2015, and she has a primarily younger fan base in a streaming-reliant era for charts success. The formula isn’t a lock for success with just any old artist, but for one of Selena’s magnitude — especially after she teased the new single to increase anticipation — I’m certainly not stunned by the notable debut, even after the incomplete week of tracking. The feat is nevertheless mighty impressive, and shows the depth of Selena’s following.
Jason Lipshutz: I’m not really surprised, based on a combination of the high quality of “Lose You to Love Me,” the star power of Gomez and the general anticipation for a new lead single — not a one-off single or cross-genre team-up, but the actual start of a new Selena era, her first in four years. Sprinkle in a bit of “Is that who this song is about?” lyrical gawking as well, and you had a song released in the middle of last week that even casual pop fans needed to experience, and subsequently re-play once its highly produced power washed over them.
Andrew Unterberger: After two-plus years of soft-ish commercial landings for new Selena singles — not counting collabs with star producers like Kygo and DJ Snake — I'll admit to being a little surprised at the quick start here. I had wondered if Gomez had become more bulletproof as a celebrity than as a marquee pop star. But when you have a following like Selena's, you're always just one undeniable single away from being back on top, and looks like she found the right single again.
2. What's the secret sauce with "Lose You to Love Me" that's allowed it to really detonate on impact like this, in the way that some of her other recent singles maybe haven't? Does the "Lose" debut say more about Gomez, the song, or about the Hot 100 in 2019?
Tatiana Cirisano: It says the most about Gomez. I just don’t think the same song would’ve hit as hard, or garnered as much interest, coming from anyone else but her. With its sparse piano and strings melody, “Lose” has to sell almost entirely based on its lyrics — and it succeeds because the words are so specific to her story. For those of us who have grown up with Gomez, the whole thing feels like a satisfying heart-to-heart. (Shoutout here to Selena's talented group of co-writers, too.)
But it also says something about the Hot 100 in 2019 that a pop star can make a comeback with a barebones piano ballad and still land in the top 15. I’ve been thinking a lot about how Gomez’s approach to handling health problems, a breakup and other turmoil in her personal life (by laying low, fighting her battles privately and returning years later with a raw diary entry of an explainer) is exactly the opposite of Ariana Grande’s horns-blaring approach to her own tumultuous 2018, which she sung about in real-time, to the tune of radio-friendly, strikingly honest hits like “thank u, next.” Both approaches worked, but only because they were fitting for the particular artist. Maybe in 2019, the real key to breaking the Hot 100 is authenticity.
Eric Frankenberg: The song is a great amalgamation of what works for Selena. It points to widely publicized personal turmoil and recalls the soft reflection of previous top 10 hit “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” perhaps taking influence from recent pop breakthroughs for Ariana Grande and Kesha. All that said, Gomez’s comeback does feel well-timed, coming at the end of a year when her brand of pop music has officially joined hip-hop at the streaming party after the relative struggle of 2017-18.
Josh Glicksman: Well, it says something about all three, but perhaps the most about the Hot 100 in 2019. After an extended run of hip-hop domination on the Hot 100, the pendulum has swung back toward pop this calendar year. Ariana Grande, Halsey, Lady Gaga, the Jonas Brothers, and most recently, Lewis Capaldi, have all notched No. 1’s in 2019. Even the tracks that may not be most closely associated with pop — “Old Town Road,” for example — surely are classifiable as it under some definition of the ever-evolving genre.
Jason Lipshutz: When you lead a high-profile pop project with a ballad — or any type of single that radically detes from standard top 40 radio tempo — you better bring something that clearly cuts through the clutter and allows for a more contemplative pace. Fortunately, “Lose You to Love Me” comes correct: Gomez’s careful vocal delivery in the verses allows for the wallop of her vulnerability in the pre-chorus, and the main hook functions as an immediate sing-along moment. “Lose You to Love Me” reminds me a little bit of Adele’s “Hello,” another pop superstar’s high-profile return that was an instant stunner and smash hit.
Andrew Untebrerger: It's definitely a little of all three, but I'll also say that timing probably helps the most with the Hot 100 placement here. Gets me wondering how "Bad Liar" and "Wolves" could've performed if they'd come a couple years later.
3. "Lose You to Love Me" isn't the only new song we've gotten from Selena in the past week. Which do you prefer between "Lose You" and "Look at Her Now," and which do you think will ultimately prove to be the bigger hit?
Tatiana Cirisano: “Lose You” for both. Don’t get me wrong, “Look at Her Now” is catchy as hell, but its electro-pop beat and vocal clips are so specific to 2019 music trends that I don’t think the song will age well. (Plus, the song's “mm-mm-mm” hook is a little too similar to that of “I Can’t Get Enough.”) By contrast, “Lose You” has a classic feel, and I find its focus refreshing: It’s not only about knowing when to let go of a toxic relationship, but having the courage to actually leave. I like the way she assigns blame to both parties (“You promised the world and I fell for it”) and how she calls the relationship a “dance” — this is not someone who’s bitter and angry, but someone who has taken stock of a painful and beautiful relationship, found the strength to move on, and become a stronger person for it. I mean, whew.
Eric Frankenberg: Definitely “Lose You to Love Me.” Following Camila Cabello’s 1-2 punch last month, it’s interesting to see another major pop artist follow suit with a simultaneous single release. But while “Look at Her Now” is more danceable and radio-friendly in an obvious way, “Lose You” is simply the better song – more memorable, more evocative, and more effective. The chorus’s “to-love-love” builds nicely at the end (a slew of heightened gay-club dance mixes is inevitable) and there are some Instagram-caption-friendly lyrics that brings it closer to the zeitgeist.
Josh Glicksman: It has to be “Lose You to Love Me,” right? “Look at Her Now” is a fun, upbeat follow-up single, but there’s only so many mm-mm-mm’s we can all hum before queueing back up the vulnerable, harmonic “Lose You.” From its opening piano chords to its “Time”-reminiscent closing notes, Gomez has you hanging on by a thread at every moment of the track. The song begs you to belt “to love, love!” at the top of your lungs whether it’s in an empty apartment on a Tuesday evening or in the back of an Uber late on a Saturday night. Just ask your driver to crank up the volume when you play it back for the third time in a row.
Jason Lipshutz: “Look at Her Now” has a slippery vocal hook and some excellently detailed percussion, but “Lose You to Love Me” is the standout, and one of the strongest singles of Gomez’s career. It’s already the bigger hit and will stay that way.
Andrew Unterberger: "Lose You to Love Me" is easily the more emotionally resonant of the two, and will likely end up the bigger chart hit, but I find myself gravitating a little more towards the limber shuffling of "Look at Her Now." It reminds me of about a dozen different songs — none of which I can actually place mentally — which is usually a sure sign of a pretty dynamite pop song.
4. Billboard's staff named Selena's "Bad Liar" the No. 1 song of 2017. How are you feeling about that decision two years later?
Tatiana Cirisano: I think Jason put it well in his No. 1 blurb when he said that “Bad Liar” honors the Talking Heads’ quirk that “pop can be bizarre and irresistible at the same time.” You can say what you want about “Bad Liar,” but you can’t say it’s not fascinating — here’s a subtle, seductive hit by a former Disney star that samples Talking Heads’ “Psycho Killer.” It’s weird and lovely, and it works. It’s funny: Back in 2017, I honestly wasn’t so sure about “Bad Liar” claiming the No. 1 over cultural moments like “Bodak Yellow” and “Despacito,” but two years later, the song holds up. Maybe we were right after all.
Eric Frankenberg: When “Green Light” and “HUMBLE.” immediately come to mind, I can safely say I disagree with that pick. But it’s probably Selena’s best single and the “Psycho Killer” sample is easily the boldest musical move of her career. While that song wasn’t a major hit on the charts, I hope she brings some of that free spirit and whimsy (?) to her next album. The directness and vulnerability of “Lose You to Love Me” can be balanced with the wink and breeziness of her 2017 standout.
Josh Glicksman: “Bad Liar” is one of those songs that prompts subconscious foot-tapping and shoulder swaying from the listener. It’s sticky, it’s bouncy, it’s the perfect grab-your-hairbrush and put on a three-and-a-half minute mirror concert kind of song. However, it’s not the best song of 2017. Kendrick Lamar dropped DAMN. in 2017. Lorde dropped “Green Light” in 2017, and I’m nearly positive that song morphs you into a superhero for the four minutes you listen to it. It’s one of the best, sure, it’s just not the best.
Jason Lipshutz: As one of main advocates for “Bad Liar” landing at No. 1, I feel great! The song holds up, and has inspired several car ride sing-alongs and awkward hand-dancing since it crowned our list back in 2017. One concern, though: with so much time passed between its release and Gomez’s next album, is it possible that “Bad Liar” will ultimately never have a full-length to call its home?
Andrew Unterberger: I don't know if it was the Right choice, but I'm still glad it's the choice we made: "Bad Liar" is an absolutely one-of-a-kind top 40 single, an unrepeatable formula, and its commercial underperformance merely ensures that it will always be a Real Heads Know kind of shared favorite among true pop fans. For that reason (among others), affection for it should only grow in the years to come.
5. Assuming it doesn't drop in the next two months, Selena Gomez will be five years removed from her most recent album when her next LP is released. Do you think the layover will ultimately be a positive thing or a negative thing for her new album and its reception when it does come out?
Tatiana Cirisano: Positive. If "Lose" is any indication, the layover has been transformative for Gomez, and I expect that growth to show up on the album, just as it has in the lead single. Plus, the pop landscape itself was very different five years ago. Today’s listeners are more receptive to risk-taking — all bets are off for what a pop star “should” be, and Gomez should and probably will take advantage of that.
I also think it’s exciting that, in the time since her last LP, she has applied her creativity to a few successful non-music projects, from executive-producing 13 Reasons Why to launching a line with Puma. Taking a step back from music to get her hands dirty with a different creative endeavor could bring a new perspective to her music, and I’ll be interested to see what role cross-pollination plays.
Eric Frankenberg: Absolutely a positive thing. Though she’s had multiple Hot 100 hits each year since Revival, her general quiet will only force interest in her new project, proven by the immediate splash on the Hot 100 for her first single.
Josh Glicksman: I don’t know that its reception is directly correlated to the time since the release of her last LP, but I do know that whenever it drops, it’ll go No. 1 — assuming it doesn’t coincide with a different artist’s long-awaited album (see: Rihanna, Adele, Lady Gaga). It’s the most widely-anticipated release of her career, which is a positive thing can be tied to the duration with which her fans have been waiting. Now, it’s just a waiting game to see how much her sound has evolved in the five years of build-up.
Jason Lipshutz: Gomez has been so active since the release of 2015’s Revival — as a musician, but also as an actress, producer, spokesperson and advocate — that the prolonged break between full-lengths hasn’t been felt as acutely as one would expect. Even if it wasn’t by design, Gomez’s ability to score consistent hits while working on other projects, and then offer “Lose You to Love Me” as a grand introduction to her next era, has been expertly played.
Andrew Unterberger: Until this two-pack, my answer probably would have been "negative" — it just didn't seem like she was trending in the right direction, or in any specific direction at all. But now I'm reminded of another pop star who, after a long period of putting out albums and a near-unsustainably prolific rate, also went an unusual number of years between albums, while putting out a number of singles (on her own and with others) that saw wildly varied commercial returns — then after that long absence, returned with her most coherent, most acclaimed and (arguably) most popular album to date. In other words: Is it possible that Selena Gomez's ANTI is imminent?