She sounds like an angel singing Heart Wants What It Wants.
And for millions of would-be singers, the heart wants to sound like Selena Gomez.
But what is it about her singing that makes it so “want-able”?
After all, she doesn’t deliver powerhouse vocals like Mariah, Whitney, or Adele.
There’s something elusively awesome about Selena’s vocal stylings that keep us coming back for more.
Here, we’ll look at exactly what Selena does to sound so alluring, so you can capture a little bit of that awesomeness for yourself.
Read on for what makes Selena special, how you can sing like her, and some practical tips to help you along the way.
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She Rocks a Strong Lower Register
Gomez delivers an eerily accurate Johnny Cash impersonation, but use of her gorgeous lower register isn’t limited to mimicking the country baritone.
Selena announced prior to her Revival release that working with a vocal teacher had allowed her to master her lower register. Since then, she’s been putting her hard work to good use.
On her Revival track Loco, for example, she hits low notes few pop divas can muster, emanating dark and smoky tones on the “but it feels so good, yeah” undercutting the chorus.
This sultry underbelly of the song is what really makes it memorable.
Diving headfirst into this lower register is a brilliant move for the singer, who doesn’t count upper register belting as one of her strengths.
Instead, she moves in the opposite direction of the power belting that dominates the pop world, giving her singing a much more unique sound.
She Plays to Her Strengths
Staying close to the notes she is comfortable with isn’t the only way Selena is a strategic performer.
In a 2015 interview, Gomez talks about finding her “sweet spot” as an artist.
She claims, “I know vocally I wouldn’t be the greatest singer in the world, but I know my strengths now. I know that I can translate emotion and heart…”
Selena’s lifelong experience as an actress certainly comes into play in her performing.
She is a storyteller on stage. Performing Same Old Love, for example, she draws the audience into her web with her theatrical body language and evocative eye contact.
She plays to her strengths with her vocal stylings, too.
Selena has a warm lower register, capable of a perfect amount of grit. On the other hand, her upper register is clear and feminine.
Since travelling seamlessly between registers isn’t one of her strengths, she plays up the different flavors of her voice rather than hiding from them.
On her massive hit Hands to Myself, her full-throated pre-chorus makes the switch to head voice on the chorus even more intoxicating.
The different colors of her voice provide the variation to make her often sparse arrangements engaging, and keeps the audience guessing.
She Incorporates Vowel Breaking
Selena has a beautiful voice that is naturally very pleasant to listen to.
It’s full of different tonal qualities and can be smoky and sultry, or clear and pretty. It’s not the most agile, you’ll notice she doesn’t incorporate vast amounts of runs or belts, so she’s limited in ways to incorporate musicality.
However, here again she finds her own ways of adding interest that set her apart from the pack.
She doesn’t do runs or belt out power notes, but she’s become famous for a more subtle, flirty way of adding interest: with vowel breaking.
Vowel breaking is simply the practice of turning one syllable into two.
If you’re studying classical voice, this is what your singing teacher is telling you not to do! But in pop vocals, it can be turn an otherwise unmemorable phrase into an earworm.
A great example is Selena’s smash hit Good for You. In Gomez’s hands, the word “good” becomes something akin to “guoid”.
Handling words like a slippery snake, her lyrics become one more way to show off her seductive and sultry sound, which is, after all, where Gomez really shines.
How You Can Sing Like Selena Gomez
So now that we know what makes Selena so unique, what can you learn from her special sound?
Lean in to Your Lower Register
When Gomez set out to improve her voice with the help of a vocal teacher - Step #1, she strengthened a part of her voice often ignored by female singers: the lower register.
Hanging out in the dark underbelly of her voice has added to the “grown up sound” Gomez has fought for since breaking from her Disney past. Breathing out these rich, chocolatey tones, 2017 Selena sounds far more adult than her work with The Scene would suggest.
Maybe you don’t naturally have the Johnny-Cash level richness that Selena does, but remember that whenever you work any part of your voice, you are adding to the overall health of your instrument. Working with a singing teacher to increase your lower range will make your entire voice stronger and healthier.
Play to Your Strengths, Like Selena Plays to Hers
Selena is a very strategic artist in that she takes what could be viewed as vocal weaknesses and uses them to her advantage.
Take, for example, the fact that she doesn’t have the smoothest transitions from chest voice to head voice. She’s succeeded in making that her calling card: now when you hear a song coupling meaty vocals with soft, breathy tones, you know you’re listening to Gomez.
If you want to sing like Selena Gomez, play with the colors of your voice and make them your own. That’s what Selena does. She took the breathy, feminine style of singing, first made popular by the iconic Marilyn Monroe in the 50’s, and added her own delicious edge to it.
Play with Vowel Breaking
Vowel Breaking is nothing new, but Selena’s infectious use of it has inspired a whole wave of female vowel-breakers, even leading to a new term: the indie-pop voice.
If you do one thing to channel Selena Gomez, this would be the place to start. Incorporating vowel breaking is the one thing you can do that will immediately add a Selena Gomez-style flavor to your sound.
Just remember, that less is more. Selena’s “guoid” sounds, well, good, because it is a garnish to the song, not the main course. If she were bending every word, you wouldn’t be able to understand the song at all. By exhibiting restraint, she adds just a little spice to her sound.
Practical Tips to Sound Like Selena
The most important takeaway to singing like Selena?
She is always working to improve her awesomeness.
Consider her pre-tour prep. Selena tells Us magazine:
“Every day I start with a workout, I do vocal lessons, I do piano lessons, I go on stage and we map out the whole thing.”
It’s clear Gomez is not comfortable resting on her laurels.
And if you want to sound like Selena, neither should you.
Selena found her sound when she made the decision to work with a vocal teacher. If you want to discover your “sweet spot” like Selena did, consider doing the same.
Online lessons now make this easier than ever. And if you’re working as hard at your awesomeness as Selena is, that is a very good thing! To find your teacher and get started being awesome, click here.
Get Ready to Get What the Heart Wants
Selena’s sound is unique, to be sure, but now you’re on your way to finding your own Selena-inspired uniqueness.
You’ve learned to exercise your lower register to achieve that sultry, chocolatey sound of hers we love, while embracing different sounds with your head voice.
You’ve learned how to find a vocal teacher to help you play to your strengths, and even how to incorporate the wildly-popular trend of vowel breaking.
Now all you have to do is take a page from Selena’s book, and start working hard to improve your awesomeness.