Believe or not before she became an international sensation, Shakira’s song lyrics were very politically incorrect. There is a very deep thinker and a skilled business woman behind her sexy light public persona. In this post, I want to shed some light on her earlier songs and the evolution of her entire body of work. Growing up in Barranquilla, Colombia was not easy, gang violence and political turmoil permeated everyday life. Although she grew up in a privileged household, her middle eastern ancestry and the fact that her father had a previous marriage, made her a target for ethnic, social and political discrimination. Her upbringing combined with the passionate nature of the Latin culture made for a very diverse and broadly creative output. Shakira has used her songs to make controversial statements regarding corruption in Medellin, and at times, describe in great detail the emotional turmoil of relationships that were never meant to be.
Shakira’s music and singing style reflects her middle easter influences (we can se this in the song “Ojos Asi”, “La Tortura” and “Mi Hips don’t Lie”). She had been writing music since she was eight. In her early singing attempts, her middle school music teacher told her to give up singing because her voice sounded like a goat. Never the less, she persisted. Most recently, her unbreakable spirit was immortalized in the song “Try Everything” (performed by her) which is part of the soundtrack for the animated movie “Zootopia” (2016).
Shakira’s earlier work although thoughtful and clever, alienated audiences outside Colombia and Latin America. It was around 2001 that her new agent suggested that if she wanted to expand internationally, she should drop some pounds, stop trying to make a statement and sell more sex. So she made a conscious decision to dilute the topics of her songs and embrace the Latin stereotype of hot Latina that South American women are subject to all over the world. In a way, I wish she would not have dropped her standards in order to sell more records. However, I trust that once she has collected enough money to retire, the old Shakira will once more resurface to display additional corners of her boundless creativity.
For this and much more, I celebrate Shakira for being a very well rounded artist. Hopefully we will see once again her more thoughtful side in her later work.
Below is a list of my top picks:
Donde Estan los Ladrones?
This starts the string of country like songs mixed with Spanish Rock that characterizes Shakira’s earlier work. This is one of those controversial songs where Shakira attempts to expose the corruption that has permeated every fiber of Colombia’s civil society. She asks where are the thieves, murderers and liars. What if they are your neighbor, your loved ones, your teachers, your doctors or the judges. What if they have ‘powdered noses’ (a clear reference to cocaine) but dress up the part and pretend to be someone they are not. She challenges the audience to look deeper into the fabric of society and realize that things are not what they seem in Colombia anymore.
Si Te Vas
What happens after you have memorized every corner of her body? After you discover that she is not that smart and that she does not brush her teeth thoroughly? When she takes what little money you have left and leaves you just like you deserve? All new brooms work well… when that happens and you have no pillows to cry on, I won’t be here waiting for you… Such a politically incorrect song about disappointment in love.
This tune has a very distinct Mexican Mariachi flavor. The trumpets and beat takes the listener through a trip of Latin America while retaining the Latin rock underlying base that challenges the senses while presenting a very controversial story.
“Argument and methodology fail me
Each time your anatomy
appears before me
Because this love no longer understands
advice or reason
It feeds on pretext
and lacks nerve (literally, pants/trousers)
This love does not allow me to stand up
Because it has broken
Even if I arise, I’ll fall again
If you draw near nothing is helpful
to this useless version of me…”
I simply don’t have words for this one. Enjoy her voice and moves 🙂
This is a real oldie for Shakira, released as part of her 1995 album “Pies Descalzos”. We can see that the video was trying to appeal to the North American Country western audience not very successfully. Her middle eastern looks are completely bare. This is a very sad song about a lost love and a mistake that can’t be taken back. Many letters that were never sent and an anguish that expands into madness. She seems quite upset in this song, not at all the Shakira that we all know today. None the less, it is a cool tune. Enjoy!
This song written in collaboration with Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz (a real cutie) is really playfully sensual. It talks about boys being boys, a very typical attitude for men in Latin America and Spain. “I can’t ask the winter to forgive the roses, nor I can be throwing pearls in the pig stay…from Monday to Friday you have my love, but leave Saturday open for me that works better… but baby, I can only learn from mistake, today I know my heart is all yours…” Really? Not sure why some women fall for that BS but knowing that for every 1 opportunity that a man has to cheat women have 20, it certainly puts things into perspective. Gentlemen, when a woman gives you her commitment she is giving up a lot more than you do, learn to appreciate that. Ladies, there is no need to lower your standards to be with any guy, there is always someone out there willing to give you everything you want without having to ask…
Hips Don’t Lie
This song catapulted Shakira into the American and international market. She definitely made it a point to capitalize on her latin and middle eastern roots by showcasing her belly dancing moves. I think this is the turning point in her career where she gave up her dream of becoming an influencer and fully embraced stereotypes that sell more records. Ironically, I love dancing to this song. I guess there is something to be said about being able to dilute lyrics but still produce a high quality output that delights the audiences. Go Shakira!
Other Worthy Mentions:
- Try Everything
- Octavo Dia
- No Creo
- Can’t Remember to Forget you
- Moscas en la Casa
- Objection (Tango)
- La Pared
- Addicted to You