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Released: 2014

At its core, Selena Gomez’s “The Heart Wants What It Wants” is a pop ballad about unrequited love, a glass-half-empty toast to the painful longing that can often define emotional attachment. It’s all about the heart’s inconvenient tendency to desire what might not be the best for us, poignantly summarized by the titular lyric, which weaves itself through the song like a stubborn thread of truth.

Gomez kicks off the track by expressing how she’s ‘sippin’ on something’ she ‘can’t compare to nothing’ she’s known – it’s clear our pop starlet is intoxicated, not with a cocktail but by a love that has her acting ‘a bit crazy’, ‘strung out’, ‘a little bit hazy’. It’s an all-consuming fever that she doubts she’ll survive. Strikingly, she prays for her survival, showing us just how deep her desperation runs; this is more than a romantic dalliance, it’s an intense emotional ordeal.

The chorus is a wrenching admission of her powerlessness in the face of love. “The bed’s getting cold and you’re not here / The future that we hold is so unclear”, she sings, voicing a universal sense of uncertainty and needy anticipation that anyone who’s ever been in love can relate to. But despite the valid advice she receives (presumably from friends attempting a bit of heart-to-heart intervention), she stubbornly sticks to her guns: “You might be right, but I don’t care / There’s a million reasons why I should give you up / But the heart wants what it wants.”

‘You’ve got me scattered in pieces’, she admits. She feels shattered and yet dazzles ‘like stars’, reinforcing a central theme and the paradox of love itself: its capacity to destroy us completely whilst making us feel entirely alive. Just like Venus, she’s illuminated in love’s glow, only for it to leave her ‘and make me wait’. It only adds fuel to the fire of her yearning, and ‘every second’s like torture’.

In what can be seen as a self-referential nod, Gomez admits that her situation is like a ‘modern fairytale’ with ‘no happy endings’, completely flipping the Disney-esque narratives on their head. Yet, she can’t envision a life without the ‘breathless moments breaking me down’. These are the moments of intense emotion, the ones that only love can spark, which illuminate the darkness of her struggle.

In conclusion, “The Heart Wants What It Wants” is a tear-streaked love letter written in the key of heartbreak. It’s a potent exploration of the emotional tug-of-war faced when the mind and heart are at odds. By the end, we’re left with the echo of Gomez’s unwavering truth: ‘The heart wants what it wants, baby / It wants what it wants’. And who are we, or she, for that matter, to argue with that?