If you pay any attention to celebrity gossip, you know that Hailey and Justin Bieber have had two weddings, lots of church dates and even suffered through head lice together. You also might know that since she was hospitalized in October 2018, Selena Gomez has been quietly focusing on improving her mental health. And even if you don’t remember any of that, I’m guessing the part of your mind reserved for the Disney-adjacent drama of your youth can recall that Selena and Justin have a lot of history together. They were on and off from 2011 to March 2018 — breaking up just four months before Bieber proposed to Hailey Baldwin that July. The media left fans to speculate how Selena felt, but on Oct. 23 with the release of her single “Lose You to Love Me,” she told all.

“We’d always go into it blindly / I needed to lose you to find me” Gomez realizes as piano notes fade into an echo chamber of background vocals. She mentions the engagement (“in two months you replaced us / like it was easy”), but the hurt in her voice is from years of mistreatment, not surprise. “You promised the world / and I fell for it” could very well characterize the cyclical nature of their relationship as she took him back again and again despite his cheating. While I’m not sure that any non-Gomez fans will be won over by “Lose You to Love Me,” as its sound and lyrics are relatively average, the song is remarkable in its maturity. 

Gomez, now an avid mental health advocate, has been vocal about seeking help in her darkest times, and now she’s shining through. In fact, “Lose You to Love Me” isn’t so much about Bieber as it is about Gomez’s struggle to accept herself. Even when she seems to call him out, for example, by singing “Set fires to my forest / and you let it burn” she understands that it’s pointless to drag him — she can’t control the poor choices he’s made. Instead, Gomez is focused on her reaction. She takes off the “rose colored glasses” she had for him and remembers that she gave it her “all.” When Gomez ultimately decides “I needed to hate you to love me,” it’s not to spite Justin, but to save herself. 

The music video echoes this process of acceptance. Many different Selenas fade into each other in black and white, all seated like they’re at a confession booth. Angry, sad, disgusted, laughing, confused, Gomez finally settles into a smirk, and then she’s O.K.. While the video is a bit disorienting (it was shot entirely on an iPhone and heavily edited), it’s fitting. Their relationship was such an emotional rollercoaster it makes sense that she felt everything at once when the ride officially ended. 

The next single, “Look at Her Now,” was released 24 hours later. The flip side to heartbreak, this song is a celebration. The “mm-mm-mm mm-mm-mm mm-mm” hook is extraordinarily catchy, to the point that it’s either irresistible or unbearable. But even if this earworm is unwelcome, it will make you want to dance. “Of course she was sad / but now she’s glad / she dodged a bullet,” Gomez shrugs. This song more clearly chronicles their ups and downs (“fast nights that got him / that new life was his problem”), but similarly shoves it all in the past. 

By referring to herself in the third person in “Look at Her Now,” not only does Gomez more effectively detach herself from the pain she’s singing about moving on from, but she also emphasizes the universality of her experience: “She knows she’ll find love / only if she wants it / She knows she’ll find love / only up from the way down,” Gomez assures herself and her young, mostly female audience. Yes, getting over a long, toxic relationship is hard, she affirms, but you’re going to find love if you want to find love. You’re not alone.

That’s why Gomez dances surrounded by lookalikes and flashing colors in the “Look at Her Now” music video. Not overly joyous or sharp in her movements, she looks cool, collected and comfortable. Seemingly months removed from the “Lose You to Love Me” video, Gomez isn’t trying to convince anyone of her well-being. It’s evident in the way she picks up the iPhone herself and looks directly into the camera. She’s over it.

Together, these songs close a chapter. Although hearing about the progression of the Bieber-Gomez saga should be boring by now, it’s too relatable. And for that reason, it’s so important that Gomez shares her story. If anyone was exhausted by the back-and-forth, it was her. Her ability to come out on the other side better than OK, having grown and learned to love herself, is incredibly hopeful for anyone who relates to her hurt. Gomez has tried to start over so many times and now, finally, she has.

 

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