|“||My single, Who Says, is the most meaningful song I have ever recorded. It makes me feel empowered. The message is upbeat and makes you really happy.||”|
– Selena in an interview with Little Angel
"Who Says" received generally positive reviews from critics, who appreciated its message and the change of pace for the band. The song charted in the top thirty in the United States, Canada and New Zealand, and it became their highest charting single on these charts. It also reached the lower regions of European charts. "Who Says" was certified Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. It also became the act's third No. 1 Billboard Hot Dance Club Songs. The song's accompanying music video features Gomez frolicking around a city, removing makeup, and performing with the band on a beach. Gomez performed the song on a variety occasions including at the 2011 MuchMusic Video Awards, on Dancing with the Stars, and So Random!. As of 2012, the song has sold over 1,771,000 copies in the United States.
In 2009, the band released their debut album Kiss & Tell and quickly followed-up with 2010's A Year Without Rain. After the release of the latter, Gomez said that she was not in a rush to release another album, but after hearing "Who Says", she decided to begin another release, calling the song "amazing" and crediting it for inspiring her. Gomez would later call the song "fun and empowering", commenting, "Every time I sing this song, I'm like, 'I feel better already!'" When talking about the song's message, Gomez commented that she thought of it as "sweet", going on to say, "with bullying, with cyberbullying, with all the negativity that is in high school and dealing with things, you're already trying to figure out who you are; it doesn't help when people are constantly trying to tear you down. She then said that she was "dealing with it, of course" and was "going through it as well." After debuting the single on On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Gomez mentioned the criticism received on Twitter and Facebook due to being a celebrity, and critics such as Nardine Saad of the Los Angeles Times inferred this as firing back at the hate received after she started dating Canadian recording artist Justin Bieber earlier in the year.
|“||Twitter and Facebook are really negative for me … within that world is such easy access to people's feelings. You can get a thousand wonderful comments but just one will throw you off and that's how it is with me. Basically it's to the haters—the people trying to bring you down.||”|
– Selena Gomez on the song
The single follows in succession of other self-empowerment singles such as "Firework" by Katy Perry, "Perfect" by Pink, "We R Who We R" by Ke$ha, and "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga. Gomez herself stated "I am so happy [about recent empowerment songs], 'cause music is a universal language, and it's a quick way to get to everybody. The fact that all these artists are doing that, it's really good. I'm really happy." The song was released on iTunes in the United States and Canada on March 14, 2011. It was released as a CD single in Germany on March 15, 2011, with the B-side of "Ghost of You" from A Year Without Rain.
|“||I absolutely love this song because everybody feels insecure, everybody feels not good enough, not pretty enough, but this song has helped me so much through everything and I really hope it’s hope to you guys, because it’s so true, because nobody, not a single person can be who you are. That’s the only person that’s you, and nobody can tell you’re not pretty, you’re not perfect; nobody! So, I want you guys to sing this one really loudly, because this is your song. This is not even my song. This song is called “Who says”.||”|
– Selena Gomez introducing the song at the Unicef charity concert in the Best Buy Theater, 2013-01-19
Composition and lyrics
The song is a departure in her previous singles such as "Round & Round" and "Naturally", whereas the previous were dance-pop and club-oriented, "Who Says" draws from the teen pop genre, and has an "organic" and "acoustic" feel. According to the sheet music published at Musicnotes.com by Alfred Publishing, "Who Says" is set in common time in a moderate tempo of 100 beats per minute. It is composed in the key of E major as Gomez's vocal range spans from the low-note of G#3 to the high-note of C#5. The song contains string accents described as "sympathetic, but not overpowering." Described as a "jangly pop tune", having an "overarching feel-good vibe", lyrically, the song speaks of "embracing who you are and not letting your critics get you down." Gomez sings of insecurities, and people telling her she is not good enough, before asserting "I'm sure you got some things/ You'd like to change about yourself/ But when it comes to me/ I wouldn't want to be anybody else."
According to Brian Voerding of AOL Radio Blog, "Gomez sings about staying true to herself, particularly in the face of doubt that comes from others telling her she can't live up to her dreams." In the song she refers to her criticism as "the price of beauty." Bill Lamb of About.com said the song's positive message is "all about recognizing yourself as a beautiful person despite what others might say or think."
Jocelyn Vena of MTV News complimented the song, commenting that "Top 40 has a new empowerment anthem." Bill Lamb of About.com said Gomez "has become the most consistent Disney pop hitmaker in recent years" and that "she has not reached these achievements through gimmickry or pandering to an audience. She has succeeded with quality, straightforward pop songs." Lamb went on to say that "Who Says" was no exception, complimenting Gomez's "winning vocals", and the song's "bright, catchy instrumental arrangement" and the "irresistible chorus." However, Lamb commented that the song was lacking in originality, and said that it was another pop song with a theme of self-esteem. Although a writer from The Huffington Post called the song "superfluous" and like many feel-good anthems, "a little bit tepid", the writer said it was "cute" and an "ode to self worth" which "exudes bubblegum confidence in the manner of her man (boy) Bieber's tune "Never Say Never.'"
"Who Says" debuted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number 24. The charting matched the debut of "Round & Round" the lead single from A Year Without Rain. The song managed to peak at number 21 on the chart dated June 29, marking the band's highest charting effort to date. Additionally, the song has reached number 17 on the US Pop Songs chart and the top position on the US Hot Dance Club Play chart "Who Says" also appeared on the Billboard component charts Adult Pop Songs and Adult Contemporary, the band's first appearance on those charts. It charted at number 37 on the previous and 27 on the latter. The song debuted at number 17 on the Canadian Hot 100, becoming their highest charting single on the chart. It also reached number 15 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, becoming their highest charting single on that chart, beating the peak of "Naturally" which reached number twenty there. The song charted in the top 50 in Germany and Ireland, and appeared on the main charts in the United Kingdom, Australia, and Austria.
The song's music video was directed by American music video director Chris Applebaum. An eight-second teaser of the video was released on March 2, 2011, and the full video premiered on VEVO on March 11, 2011. The video starts off with Gomez at a photoshoot where she starts singing the first verse. She then removes her earrings and shoes and exits the studio. She is seen singing while walking through a city, riding in a cab, and eventually walking on the outskirts of the city as lyrics appear in various locations including a theatre marquee, the side of a building, and written in the sky. Eventually she enters a public restroom, throws on a casual outfit and removes her make-up. After this, Gomez makes her way to a beach, where she is seen singing with her band, surrounded by fans. The video ends as the crowd runs into the water, and the waves wash away the words 'THE END' written in the sand.
Gomez appeared on Late Show with David Letterman on March 16, 2011 and The Seven on March 18, 2011 to promote the single. The band performed the song for the first time at the 3rd annual Concert For Hope on March 20, 2011. Later, they performed the song on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on March 22, 2011, and on Dancing with the Stars on April 5, 2011. The band also performed the song on an episode of So Random!. The band also performed the song on Good Morning America on June 17, 2011. On June 19, 2011, the band performed the song on the 2011 MuchMusic Video Awards, whereas they performed it on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and Live with Regis and Kelly on June 24, 2011 and June 29, 2011, respectively.
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