Despite the hits, Selena Gomez isn't exactly having a stellar year. She's had a highly-publicized breakup with Justin Bieber, a split that was apparently so painful, she had to seek seclusion back with her family in Texas. Now she's the subject of some heavy-duty shade-throwing on Instagram surrounding her latest video release, Back To You.
The detractors are pointing out numerous similarities between the video for her piece and the retro cinematic style of Palestinian visual artist Sarah Bahbah. Like the grainy silent movies of yesteryear, the Back To You video recalls those Douglas Fairbanks Jr. reels of Gomez and an anonymous cohort partying, stealing a vehicle, and getting into a number of hair-raising hijinx. Lyrics of the song, which is part of the soundtrack for the second season of 13 Reasons Why, are superimposed on the screen, another signature of Bahbah's work.
Bahbah, who's got more than half a million Instagram followers, has plenty of fans in her corner crying foul. She hasn't, however, officially commented on whether the Gomez outing is a copycat of her work, which is rich in text overlays like memes in motion. Gomez, for her part has more than 150 million Instagram followers, many of whom would likely support her artistically regardless of what she does. Defenders pointed to her 2011 hit Love You Like A Love Song, which also uses subtitles to highlight the tune's lyrics, as evidence that Gomez was already exploring that territory before Bahbah even became a presence on the visual arts scene.
The video hearkens the same hubbub that Taylor Swift encountered when social media wags took her to task earlier this year over her Delicate video, claiming it was far too close to the concept of Spike Jonze's Kenzo Nation promotional outing. The reaction prompted the singer to use her smartphone to record a second version of her singing the piece in a wilderness setting.
So far, Gomez hasn't responded to the accusations, but it's not like the singer to ape someone else's style or material without giving credit to the original. In fact, she's received plenty of praise for her choice of audio samples, such as the time she used Tina Weymouth's opening bass riffs for the Talking Heads classic Psycho Killer on her 2017 hit Bad Liar.
"That's one of the most nerve-wracking things in the world to sample one of the greatest bands of all time," said Gomez, who wasn't even born when Psycho Killer first came out. "We got their blessing, thank goodness."
Weymouth was apparently grateful for the Gomez riff option. "It's good to be appreciated," said the former Talking Head.
We will have to wait and see if Gomez has anything to say about these latest accusations.