Singer, actress and producer Selena Gomez returned to the stage at the 2019 American Music Awards after a two-year hiatus from live televised performances. But far from being a glorious comeback, her show drew the ire of fans online. And now, an insider has come forward claiming to have the truth about what really happened that night.
Winter is the time when many in the entertainment world throw their award ceremonies. Furthermore, while the Grammys get the lion’s share of attention, it’s traditionally the AMAs that kick-start the season. The year 2019 was no different – with the latter annual ceremony being held in the November.
As always, the ceremony featured performances from up-and-coming stars and certified legends. Emerging talents Lizzo and Billie Eilish delivered memorable sets, while modern icons Taylor Swift and Shania Twain both capped off the evening with medleys of their biggest hits.
Perhaps the most anticipated performance of the night, however, was from singer and TV talent Selena Gomez. But it wasn’t just because the star would be opening the ceremony singing her new tunes “Lose You to Love Me” and “Look at Her Now.” Rather, as we mentioned earlier, much of the hype came because it was the star’s first on-stage TV performance in two years.
Gomez had most recently sang at the AMAs two years prior in 2017. However, this time would cut a very different mood to that previous appearance. And it may have had to do with some issues that the star had coped with during her time away.
In 2013 Gomez discovered that she had lupus – a chronic autoimmune disease that attacks healthy tissue in the body. But despite her attempts to press on with her life and career, the star found that her condition was pulling her into the shadows.
Gomez then decided to take some time out from the spotlight in 2016. She said in a statement at the time, “As many of you know, around a year ago I revealed that I have lupus – an illness that can affect people in different ways. I’ve discovered that anxiety, panic attacks and depression can be side effects of Lupus – which can present their own challenges.” Elsewhere, a series of break-ups over the years with on/off boyfriend Justin Bieber had only made things more difficult for the star.
Gomez continued in her statement, “I want to be proactive and focus on maintaining my health and happiness and have decided that the best way forward is to take some time off. Thank you to all my fans for your support… I know I am not alone and by sharing this, I hope others will be encouraged to address their own issues.”
By taking time out, Gomez hoped to set a good example for others undergoing similar illnesses. She continued, “You know how special you are to me, but I need to face this head on to ensure I am doing everything possible to be my best.”
Gomez continued to struggle, however, and in 2017 the star discovered that she urgently required a kidney transplant due to the lupus. Thankfully, her friend Francia Raisa offered to become a donor, and Gomez later published a photo on Instagram showing the two pals hand-in-hand in their hospital beds awaiting surgery.
Throughout the following years, Gomez made good on her promise to take it easy. But she didn’t stop working; rather, the multi-talented performer placed her efforts primarily on producing her hit show 13 Reasons Why. She also released the single “Wolves” in 2017 – a track Gomez later performed at that year’s AMAs.
Given Gomez’s time away from the spotlight, it was only natural that her eventual comeback would send fans wild. In 2019 the singer released “Love You to Love Me” – a haunting ballad seemingly inspired by her relationship with Bieber. And just a day after releasing that track, she followed it up with the more dance-oriented tune “Look at Her Now.”
Gomez’s return to the stage went down a storm, and the songs became some of the most successful of her career. In particular, “Love You to Love Me” hit the top of the Billboard 100 – her first single ever to do so. And whatever fans thought of the track’s message, one thing was clear – Gomez was back.
The tracks’ co-writer Julia Michaels offered her thoughts about the singer in an interview with Billboard magazine in 2019. She said, “I think [Gomez has] had a really long year, and a long year of self-reflection… and I think she’s really found that strength in time, and now she wants to sing about it. [Gomez] wants to let people know that she’s strong and that she’s come the f*** back.”
And yet for all her billboard success, Gomez still hadn’t played her songs in front of a live audience for two years. But that would all change with the AMAs – a show that would guarantee the singer millions of viewers. Here, fans would get to see just how much the star had changed in her years away from the stage.
On the night, Gomez was decked out in a somber black dress, and she sang a solemn solo version of “Lose You to Love Me.” To compliment the mood, meanwhile, clips from the music video behind her were in black and white.
Things then took a more energetic turn at the end of second chorus for “Lose You to Love Me.” As backup dancers swarmed around Gomez, the stage set switched from monochrome to energetic primary colors. Viewers then eagerly awaited the arrival of something special as the pulsating lights and music worked towards a climax.
The dancers subsequently stepped back to reveal Gomez sporting a dazzling new look. The singer, now dressed in a sequined leotard and knee-high boots, launched into dance mode as the first beat of “Look at Her Now” boomed out. From there, the viewing public was treated to a kinetic performance full of vibrant choreography and stunning pyrotechnics.
Almost as impressive as Gomez’s performance was the reaction to some of the stars witnessing the event. Touchingly, the star’s friends Halsey and Taylor Swift cheered with excitement and jumped up and down from the aisles.
However, Gomez’s performance drew a different response from some of those watching at home. And while many fans showed their appreciation online, others were less than kind. In fact, some had some harsh words to say about the singer’s rendition of her songs.
A number of Twitter users took to the social media platform to claim that Gomez’s vocals sounded a little off. Some viewers argued that the star seemed to struggle with her pitch during the first verse of “Lose You to Love Me.” As a result, it prompted a fair amount of mean-spirited responses online.
Many fans posted a slew of reaction GIFs showing celebrities cringing in embarrassment. One Twitter user wrote, “Me listening to [Gomez’s] performance,” above a meme of Chrissy Teigen grimacing. They then added, “I love you girl but what the f*** was that[?]”
There were also those who made a more personal critique at Gomez and “Lose You to Love Me” itself. In the song, the star sings about an ex-lover who “sang off-key in my chorus” – a barb that has been interpreted as being aimed at Bieber. But some claimed that Gomez’s own delivery of the line ironically was off that night.
Other fans, in all fairness, did have some more constructive things to say about Gomez’s show. For example, one Twitter user took the entertainer’s absence from the stage into account and speculated that “maybe [the performance] was too soon.” They added, “She has been [through] a lot so bless her heart!”
This theme of mental illness in particular was taken up by fans defending the singer. For example, another Twitter account took exception to how the star had been treated online. And they were quick to remind others that they ought to take Gomez’s ill health into account before throwing any stones online.
“[People should consider a] few things before bashing [Gomez’s] performance,” the fan began. “1. It was her first TV performance in two years. 2. The [first song] was emotional and couldn’t have been easy to sing for millions. 3. She has an autoimmune disease that can strike with symptoms at any moment. 4. Kill them with kindness.”
Elsewhere, a handful of fans speculated that the fault wasn’t even with Gomez herself. According to one user, the issue may have been caused by a technical fault that the show’s audio team had failed to pick up on. They opined, “It almost sounds like [there’s] something wrong with the AMA’s audio…”
The theory that technical issues may have undermined Gomez’s performance was then given some credibility the next day. A Twitter user with supposed insider knowledge of the event posted a screenshot of alleged private messages from an anonymous friend. This pal – who claimed to have been a sound engineer at the event – said that the issue had stemmed from a faulty earpiece.
Gomez had been unable to hear herself at certain parts of the performance due to the alleged sound issues, the technician claimed. They added that the press room temporarily struggled to hear anything from the performance as well.
By all means, the theory of the faulty sound issues would make a lot of sense. According to the Twitter user’s supposed sound technician friend, it’s something that Gomez – who reportedly shrugged the fault of with an affable “s*** happens” – took in her stride. However, this isn’t the only explanation that came forth from that night. And one in particular pertains to Gomez’s health at the time of the event.
The day after the AMAs, E! News spoke to an alleged insider who purported to have some insider information regarding Gomez’s performance. According to them, the singer had put “a lot of pressure on herself” leading up to the show. As a result, the source claimed, the star “had anxiety and a panic attack before she went out.”
Another alleged source, meanwhile, pointed to a newly acquired tattoo that the singer had sported that night. They tweeted, “Sources confirm Selena’s lupus flared up because of [the] big tattoo she got. Her team has said she felt pain all day, could barely talk and had a panic attack before the show.”
But if Gomez really did have health issues at the AMAs, she certainly didn’t let them spoil her return. On the contrary, the star later logged onto Instagram to share some red carpet snaps taken on the night. And beside them, she expressed her delight that she had once again taken center stage.
“Feels good to be back,” the singer exclaimed alongside snaps of herself smiling with pure joy. Gomez continued, “Thank you to my entire team and to my fans that stand by me. All of this is for you and because of you. Excited for this chapter…”
And for every hater that responded to it, Gomez’s set inspired almost as many fans who found courage in the performer’s ability to bounce back from her troubles. To that end, one Twitter user posted, “I have anxiety too and you are a warrior. [Thank you for being] a role model to me and others.”
Elsewhere, Gomez has certainly had a lot to celebrate since making her comeback at the AMAs. At the start of 2020 the singer released her third album: Rare. It was her first since Revival five years earlier, and the record went on to become an immediate success – shooting to number one on the Billboard 200.
Gomez has also been vocal about addressing her own personal issues. In an interview with NPR in January 2020, the singer stunned many when she claimed to have suffered emotional abuse at the hands of ex-boyfriend Justin Bieber. However, Gomez reassured fans that she has put the experience firmly behind her.
Gomez asserted that she found strength during those difficult moments in her life. The star added, “It’s dangerous to stay in a victim mentality.” And while it’s a subject she may not want to discuss further, Gomez at least emerged as a more resilient person as a result. The singer continued, “I am really proud that I can say I feel the strongest I’ve ever felt…”
“I have days where it’s hard for me to get out of bed, or I have major anxiety attacks,” Gomez went on. “All of that still happens. But the way I find these moments in my life that are pretty difficult, I think the only way it’s helped me is that I can use that for good.”
Gomez added that she wants to use her platform to make the lives of others better. She told NPR, “I want to live in a world where an 11-year-old is not committing suicide because of bullying on social media. That’s what I think my real mission is; I think that I have such big dreams and ideas for ways that I can give back. And right now I know that this is something that will be for life.”