Selena Quintanilla, the Grammy-winning singer who ruled the airwaves before her murder in 1995, is the focus of Netlix’s recent Selena: The Series. The show has some notable cars, including a makeshift tour bus, and uses the rite of passage that is learning to drive stick-shift as a plot point, but it doesn’t live up to the standard of Selena’s own incredible ’90s videos. It needs more cars.
The representation of the Rio Grande Valley in the series is flat-out wrong, and overall it’s been hit or miss for reviewers. But it prompted me to dig a little, and I found two cases of better car-casting elsewhere in Selena’s work.
Both examples are set inside letter-boxed video, and the ’90s are barely contained inside their 4:3 formatted screens. The first is the video for Selena’s “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” released in 1994. The title is referring to a thumping heart, but we know it’s just the sound the video’s LeBaron makes when it honks and backfires overtaking slower drivers.
That driver could be Selena herself, at the wheel of her teal Wrangler YJ. The YJ is such an underrated Jeep. Its square headlights look fine, and the design is good enough for more than Jurassic Park decals. Selena’s bright Jeep is proof.
Yes, cool cars and music videos are a predictable combination. We can argue car enthusiasts are not really the target demographic, or that music videos feature cars because of their broad appeal. But that assumes everyone is a bit of an enthusiast to begin with. Otherwise, what’s the appeal?
The second is the music video for “La Carcacha” from 1992. It’s briefly mentioned in the Netflix series, but the video is truer to the spirit of the song. The title translates to none other than “The Jalopy.” Shot in Monterrey, in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, the city’s busy roads are the backdrop between kaleidoscope visuals. VW Bugs are everywhere, as are peseras, which are similar to India’s decorated trucks but carry people rather than cargo.
The singer narrates a plight familiar to anyone who’s been at the mercy of a worn-out daily driver; it’s about a couple whose jalopy threatens to break down at any moment, probably because they refused to take on an 84-month loan term for a new car. It’s not specified in the video, but I always imagined it was a Beetle. The video suggests as much.
The catchy chorus loops as the Tejano singer implores the car to please keep moving and not leave them stranded. You could almost translate the title and stick it in the song without changing it too much. Selena sings “Carcaha, poco a poquito,” which means “Jalopy, little by little.”
That’s a mantra many of us live by.