In 1994, just before the release of her career-defining fourth studio album Amor Prohibido, Selena Quintanilla seemed to be on top of the world. Her previous album, 1992’s Entre a Mi Mundo, broke records by becoming the best-selling album by a female Tejano singer (until Amor Prohibido broke that record) and made the young Texan a singular name among Latino communities. But at the time, Tex-Mex or Tejano—a style of music combining elements of norteño, cumbia, and conjunto, among others—was little-known outside of its core fanbase, and its biggest names were mostly men. Selena paved the way for an entire movement—and the women who were often ignored within it—by delivering a genre-bending concept album about forbidden love and the pitfalls of diving headfirst into turbulent relationships.
Amor Prohibido picked up on Selena’s previous successes, including Selena Live, and built on the massive power of earlier singles like “Como La Flor.” With this album, she brought the once-regional sounds of Tex-Mex to international consciousness while also perfectly showcasing her and album producer (and brother) A.B. Quintanilla’s influences growing up as Mexican-Americans—ni de aquí, ni de allá, neither here nor there. Selena’s innovative take on Tejano saw her tinker with the sounds of cumbia, ranchera, reggae, and even techno, all while keeping a cohesive sound that could be enjoyed by purists and newbies alike, even influencing bands south of the border like Grupo Limite.
The title track sets the tone for the album by telling a tale of forbidden love, inspired by her grandparents’ real-life story. (It's impossible to ignore the fact that Selena and husband Chris Perez’s romance began clandestinely, leading to the two eloping in 1992.) “No Me Queda Más” showcases her range with a more traditional Mexican ranchera sound, while “Cobarde” harkens back to something closer to straightforward Tejano. Cumbia behemoths like “El Chico Del Apartamento 512,” “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” and “Si Una Vez” provide the album with some of its most anthemic sing-alongs, while “Fotos y Recuerdos” (a quasi cover of The Pretenders’ “Back on the Chain Gang”) became one of Selena’s most memorable hits.
Sadly, La Reina’s reign ended in March 1995—almost exactly a year to the day of the album’s release—when her friend and associate Yolanda Saldivar murdered the singer at the age of 23. To say Amor Prohibido shattered mainstream barriers is to undersell its impact. Selena’s fearless drive in the face of a machista music industry reflected back on many young Latinas who looked up to her, showing there was nothing to stop them from dominating spaces traditionally held by men. And whether new fans or old, the mantra remains the same: “Anything for Selenas.”