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Big Rodeo blunder: Selena Gomez fails to recognize the original Selena, makes Taylor Swift look brilliant

Big Rodeo blunder: Selena Gomez fails to recognize the original Selena, makes Taylor Swift look brilliant

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Selena Gomez is still trying to find her voice at the microphone. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez probably isn't sweating our Rodeo review. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
While the rest of the stadium of tweens and tortured parents squealed to Gomez's warble, I took quick notes on the performer's follies. Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
Let's start with the lowest point of the night — a mid-set break to introduce her father and sing "Happy Birthday." Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
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But the biggest omission of her RodeoHouston night was not paying tribute to the original Selena.
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
The set for Selena Gomez' Sunday show at the rodeo Photo by © Michelle Watson/CatchlightGroup.com
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez
News_Selena_performing_Tejano singer
News_Rodeo_March 2011_Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez set the stage at a Sunday evening rodeo performance by confiding to the Reliant Stadium crowd, "It just feels so good to be back home in Texas." She would later add, "I'm just a girl from Dallas, Texas, and I'm on this stage because you believe in me."

Should we believe in Ms. Gomez (who hails from Grand Prairie, somewhere between Arlington and Irving)? After enduring her 58-minute-long performance, I can't say that I do.

While the rest of the stadium of tweens and tortured parents squealed to Gomez's warble, I took quick notes on the performer's follies. Let's start with the lowest point of the night — a mid-set break to introduce her father and sing "Happy Birthday." The moment was humanizing for the performer, not because she was baring her family roots, but because her control of the song was terribly off-key.

Indeed, while Selena's winning smile, svelte figure and incomprehensibly voluminous hair are key ingredients to becoming a time-tested pop tart, her vocals are lacking. Aside from her "Happy Birthday" blowup, this scarcity of singing skill shines through when she covers the work of other artists. If you've ever doubted the talent of Taylor Swift, the blonde product appears a genius when her track "You Belong With Me" is covered by Gomez.

Selena's dearth of singing talent pales in comparison to her as-yet-found originality in her own songs, which is perhaps why she relied heavily on three covers during her short set. "This is for the mamas and dads out there tonight," she announced before launching into a weak rendition of Pat Benatar's "Love Is A Battlefield." Taking a nod to her Disney management, she ended the night with a try at Pilot's "Magic" (which, incidentally, appears in commercials for Walt Disney World).

Even her original songs seem like riffs off of higher quality pop. Take Gomez' "Off the Chain," which repeats "your love, your love, your love," in an identical manner to the refrain of Ke$ha's "Your Love Is My Drug." In her stage costume, which involved a black sequined tank and Yves Klein blue tutu, Gomez represented the most watered-down aesthetic of Black Swan.

Despite a tanked trio of covers, I was most disappointed to not hear the one cover I'd been anticipating — a song by Tejano singer Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. Last year, when performing alongside recently-confirmed beau Justin Bieber, Gomez reportedly wowed with a tribute rendition of "Bidi Bidi Bom Bom." No such effort was made Sunday for Gomez to recognize her late namesake, who attracted over 65,000 fans to the Astrodome during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in 1995.

While I mourned the loss of Selena 1.0, the hoards of tweens lamented that Beiber did not make a guest appearance (understandably, as he landed in Dublin earlier today as part of his UK tour). However, Selena echoed a virtual shout out to the crooner after he tweeted Sunday, "i miss you," with an all-band inclusive pre-show tweet "I miss all of y'all."

Selena still had her crew, "the Scene," which is the moniker for her backup band. That includes a guitarist, bassist and keyboardist, all of whom she introduced by name, along with her two (much needed) backup singers, Ashley and Lindsey, also known as "the Scenettes." Watching huge projections of the Scenettes writhe behind Gomez, I couldn't help but empathize as we each thought, "How did I end up here?"

I don't despise Gomez — as a seemingly stable and entrepreneurial teenager, she's a good role model, and her involvement with UNICEF is certainly commendable. I just hope that someday soon, Selena will — literally — find her voice.