“Wanna hear a part to my story I tried to hide in the glory / And sweep it under the table, so you would never know?”
The delicate internal rhyme in Selena Gomez‘s “My Mind & Me” ironically suits a song about profound inner discord. The Oscar-shortlisted confessional captures the essence of the Apple TV+ documentary about the singer-actor-producer, “Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me”.
The film starts as a behind-the-curtain glimpse at a pop superstar as she promotes her new album. Then, chaos strikes, and it becomes something very different: An unguarded look at the mental-health struggles of a young woman seemingly on top of the world. The song rises to what could very well be Gomez’s creative zenith.
“We were originally just wanting to do a tour documentary, which meant, you know, pretty dresses and dancing and singing and having a great time. That’s just not where I was mentally,” Gomez says. “I was really confused then. I was really struggling to just get it together.”
Gomez, 30, has already had a public battle with lupus, requiring a kidney transplant. Then came what she calls the “psychotic break” that forced her to cancel the rest of her tour. She sought treatment and received a behavioral-health diagnosis: bipolar disorder, anxiety and depression.
“But if I pull back the curtain, then maybe someone who’s hurtin’ / Will be a little more certain, they’re not the only one lost”
“I don’t wish it on anyone,” Gomez says, “but the psychotic break — as much as it was painful, actually led me to discovering my diagnosis. I sought help. I believe in medication. It has completely changed my life. That hopefully was part of the message in talking about my story: ‘You should never stop figuring out who you are,’” she says. “I just hope that people [who are suffering] know they’re not alone.
“I think now I’m at the place where I wear it proudly, and I’m not ashamed, and I wanna continue to be honest with my journey, because I feel like I don’t have anything to hide.”
Part of that outlook entails penning a song she acknowledges to be her most personal since her triple-platinum hit “Lose You to Love Me,” about her painful breakup with Justin Bieber. This one would go into uncharted waters for a performer who has been in the public eye since she was 10, with more than 350 million Instagram followers (making her the world’s most-followed entertainer, according to Brandwatch) and a spot among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2020.
This song would go deeper into who she really is.
“I had sent a few pages of my diary to Stefan and Amy and the gang,” she says of co-writers Amy Allen, Jonathan Bellion, Michael Pollack, Stefan Johnson, Jordan K. Johnson and the production team known as the Monsters & Strangerz. “They were super-grateful that I was sharing my heart, because it was different than anything I had ever done.
“When we got in the room, it was effortless. It was like a therapy session. Some of the words were verbatim, some of the things I was talking to myself about.”
You can be around all the best people and feel nothing. And that’s the loneliest place to be.
— Selena Gomez
The first notes are alone on a piano, almost like a music box. The verses are sung at about double the tempo of the choruses, but with something in the vocal colored by trouble, exhaustion. Together they suggest the ballerina figurine that pops up when that music box opens, spinning and spinning and no one understanding how she feels about it.
The second stanza’s metaphor — as poetic as it is — scratches the surface of a secondary, even deeper meaning:
“Sometimes I feel like an accident, people look when they’re passin’ and / Never check on the passenger, they just want the free show,” Gomez quotes her song and says the line came from a conversation with a friend. In that talk, she described how she was feeling as: “I was driving a truck and I was just going; all this stuff was in the truck, in the back, and I was going a hundred miles an hour, and then I stop. And all of that stuff just hits me at once.”
Out of that delicately manic lyric, the melody slows, legato: “Yeah, I’m constantly / tryna fight somethin’ that my eyes can’t see …”
Those lines are produced with echo, placing her farther away than before, in another place, almost as a different person — or at least a different part of a person. It’s a forsaken sound.
Then, the vocal is up front and present, backed by a bass and a strumming acoustic guitar — and subtly syncopated, so the thoughts are just slightly off the beat:
“My mind and me / we don’t get along sometimes / And it gets hard to breathe / but I wouldn’t change my life”
As the melody climbs to a higher pitch, her voice becomes as plaintive as it’s ever been: “And all of the crashin’ and burnin’ and breakin’, I know now / If somebody sees me like this, then they won’t feel alone now”
… before returning to the solitude of the melody’s landing spot, her simple delivery and those solitary piano notes: ”… My mind and me.”
Though there is an instrumental build — perhaps less a “build” than a “filling up” — in the choruses (including some ghostly, wordless vocal touches back in the mix), the song never overpowers. It’s a bit like the confusion of a room of mirrors, then looking up to see sky.
“Hopefully, it’s one of those songs you feel a release listening to or singing in the car, or just listening to on headphones when you’re just sitting there with yourself,” Gomez says. “I wanted it to feel quiet but powerful.”
“If somebody sees me like this, I hope they feel less alone now; that’s the whole essence,” says Gomez. “I just want it to be real. There is nothing lonelier than being so confused and hard on yourself. You can be around all the best people and feel nothing. And that’s the loneliest place to be.”
I would much rather talk about what’s going on in our real lives than pretend to be happy.
— Selena Gomez
She says the documentary has enabled her to have “such real conversations with people. I don’t feel like an entity. I don’t feel like people are just, ‘Can I take a picture?’ It’s more, ‘I wanna talk to you about that …’ It started to make me feel like a real person.
“The biggest gift of all of it was that it allowed other people to share their struggles with me. I feel like that’s so important and I would much rather talk about what’s going on in our real lives than pretend to be happy.”
She knows that she’s not out of the woods and that she may never be — she confesses to often having “these thoughts and these visions of things going wrong … it can be things that are really hurtful, or it can be the dumbest thing.
“My mind is a force of its own. And I love who I am, and I love how my mind works, because it is who I am. But I am so grateful that I now have a better relationship with it.”
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