Good morning Avocados and welcome to my second artist spotlight on this new website. If you haven’t read a M-AM Artist Spotlight before, I like to discuss a little history about the artist and/or my own personal connections to. From there I then transition to which songs I like best from them from each album or I list the ones I do together under a “Best Of” compilation of my creation. So, rest assured you’ll be reading a review that comes from a place of love. I usually focus on musical artists that are huge or well known in the music world but get a lot of what I feel is undue hate. So, I write these spotlights with the hope I can convince the haters to give said act another chance or introduce the uninitiated into a band that I really love. But that doesn’t mean that I won’t sometimes talk about an unknown act in the effort to expose them to as many new people as possible. I may also do an artist spotlight on a well-known and well-liked band just to give my own reasons for liking them.
But for today’s review, I thought it would be fitting to focus on an artist whose original artist spotlight I did for them on the old website was my favorite up to that point. Shakira. And yes, this artist spotlight is a redux of one that I’ve done before in the past reworked to fit the standards I hold myself to today. This will be the case for the first 25 artist spotlights I post on this website as they all will be reuploads of my old work. Now with that out of the way, let’s begin in earnest.
So, despite the Mexican-Salvadoran blood running through my veins, I can’t speak any Spanish for the life of me. It’s not that I don’t want to learn, it’s just that it’s really hard trying to learn a new language. Growing up I had a speech impediment that prevented me from speaking English properly. Trying to learn a whole new language on top of that would have been near impossible so I wasted my foremost development years in all intents and purposes. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to learn, but that I was screwed out of luck. It didn’t help matters that growing up in East L.A my parents would play all a lot of Spanish artists on the car ride radio. I would listen to all the big guns: Maná, Juanes, La Sonora Dinamita, Vicente Fernandez (THE GOAT), and a lot of other famous Latin American artists. But one artist in particular that my mom loved to play when I was a kid in the late 90’s was an up and coming Latin American singer: Shakira
Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll was born on February 2, 1977 in Barranquilla, Colombia ( one of Columbia’s biggest cities). She is the only child of Nidia Ripoll Torrado and William Mebarak Chadid, but has 8 half brother’s and sister’s from her mom’s past marriage. The name Shakira is Arabic (شاكِرة, šākirah), meaning “grateful”. It is the feminine form of the name Shakir (شاكر, šākir).
When Shakira was four, her father took her to a local Middle Eastern restaurant, where Shakira first heard the doumbek (a traditional drum used in Arabic music and which typically accompanied belly dancing). On a whim she started dancing on the table, and the experience of performing in front of other people made her realize that she wanted to be a musical artist no matter what. Shaki enjoyed singing for schoolmates and teachers (and even the nuns) at her Catholic school, but in second grade was rejected for the school choir because her vibrato was too strong. The music teacher told her that she sounded “like a goat”.
When Shakira was two years old, an older half-brother of hers was killed in a motorcycle accident. When she turned 8, Shakira wrote her first song, titled “Tus Gafas Oscuras” (“Your Dark Glasses”), which was based on her father, who for years wore dark glasses to hide his grief. To instill gratitude in Shakira as a child, her father took her to a local park to see the orphans who lived there. He wanted her to never forget those who were less fortunate than them and to always thank the Lord above with blessing the family with a good life. The experience stuck with her and she said to herself “one day I’m going to help these kids when I become a famous artist.” And that she did as nowadays she could be found doing charity work for those in her native Columbia.
Between the ages of 10 and 13, Shakira was invited to various musical events in the city of Barranquilla and gained some recognition for her larger than life personality. This video shows a young Shakira during this time performing in front of a small crowd trying to make a name for herself. Singing, connecting with the crowd, being able to tell a story through her Belly Dancing, she did it all.
It was at about this time that she met local theater producer Monica Ariza, who was impressed with Shakira and tried to help her career. Despite an initial rejection by a Sony executive who thought Shaki’s voice was a “lost cause”, Ariza managed to get her signed with Sony Colombia anyways on a three-album record deal. The rest as they say, is history.
Now this is the last part of my artist spotlight reviews. Here is where I either go over each album the band has made and the songs I love from them, or I list my favorite songs from them under my own curated fan made album. Well don’t worry, today I will be going over each album in detail.
Shakira’s first two albums under this deal were well received but weren’t commercial successes or made her well known anyway other than her native Columbia. Did I mention that Shakira loved American rock bands growing up? She was in love with the The Beatles, The Cure, The Police, as well as Led Zeppelin and Nirvana even though she didn’t speak any English. Shaki just fell in love with the composition of their songs and sound of their lead singer’s voices. But no other person had a bigger influence on Shakira musical career than Alanis Morrissette and her album Jagged Little Pill. Funnily enough, Shakira loved her voice and how it sounded as unorthodox as her own and only helped to reassure the young artist that she could make it in the music industry. Shakira especially marveled at how she managed to make music that was a mixture of pop and rock all the while keeping her artistic integrity as a songwriter. This influence showed itself and then some by the time of her third studio album “Pies Descalzos” and especially in its followup “Dónde Están los Ladrones?”
“Pies Descalzos” and “Dónde Están los Ladrones?” made Shakira a superstar in Latin America. Just so you can understand how truly well they did, Pies Descalzos debuted at number 1 in eight countries and sold over 5 million copies. Dónde Están los Ladrones? did even better, selling over 8 million copies worldwide and becoming one of the highest selling albums ever in a number of Latin American countries. In late 1999, Shakira released a greatest hits album titled Grandes Exitos. It complies all of her biggest hits from across her 4 Spanish albums, and does a pretty good job of picking all of the great tracks. But I feel that it misses a few key songs, so I’ve decided to list out all of my favorite songs from her from this time period under the banner name of Grandes Exitos.
1.) Estoy Aqui
3.) Donde Estas Corazon
4.) Que Me Quedes Tu
5.) Ciega, Sordomuda
6.) Si Te Vas
7.) Pies Descalzos, Suenos Blancos
8.) Octavo Dia
9.) Que Vuelvas
10.) No Creo
11.) Donde Estan Los Ladrones (En Vivo MTV)
12.) Ojos Asi
13.) Te Aviso, Te Anuncio (Tango)
14.) Suerte (Whenever, Wherever)
After the success of Dónde Están los Ladrones, Shakira understandably wanted to make a English crossover album to widen her appeal to North America. Shakira brought her skills to America for the first time ever in August 12, 1999 on MTV Unplugged. When watching the performance for the first time, you are struck by how hungry and passionate Shakira was to conquer this new and strange place called the United States. To this end, she began working on her first English crossover album, Laundry Service.
“Laundry Service” was released on November 13, 2001 and debuted at number three on the Billboard Top 200 albums selling over 200,000 albums in its first week. However, all was not as well as it seemed. While the rock and Spanish dance-influenced album gained mild critical success, she drew complaints from critics claiming that her English was to weak and that she sounded like a frog. One more positive review captures what I feel was the problem quite effectively. It’s from The Rolling Stone and claims that the reason “she sounds downright silly” was because “Shakira’s magic (was) lost in translation.” If that wasn’t bad enough for the young artist, Shakira was also criticized by her Latin American fans for seemingly abandoning her folk and rock roots in favor of contemporary American pop music. Despite all this post negative backlash, the album still became the bestselling record of 2002, selling more than 20 million copies worldwide thanks to a little known song called “Whenever, Wherever.” To this date the single is the highest grossing single of the 21st century, selling 8.5 copies alone.
But the post negative backlash of Laundry Service was apparently taken very personal by Shakira, as her next album Fijación Oral, Vol. 1, was a Spanish only album that went back to her roots. Released in June 2005, it became the highest selling debut ever for a Spanish language album and has since sold over 4 million worldwide. It was a critical and commercial success for Shakira, and she regained the trust from her original fans that she would never forget them. Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic said the showed that Shakira “can not only return to her roots, but expand upon them”. He described “La Tortura” as a “natural for American radio.”
To her credit, Shakira’s 7th studio album “Oral Fixation, Vol. 2” was released in 2006 to a mix reception. However, it since went on to sell 8 million copies worldwide thanks a little old song added in on the last second called Hips Don’t Lie. Hips Don’t Lie made Shakira a worldwide superstar and cemented her place in music history.
Now you may be wondering why I have not been listing my favorite songs from these past 3 albums right before talking about them. Admittedly, I must agree that Shakira’s first three albums outside her native Colombia and language are by far her weakest work. Trying to learn a new language is hard enough, but to do so while making music that appeals to two different audiences is even tougher. The quality of songwriting may not be up to her high standards, but each album does have some tunes that deserve to be recognized. And to that end, I have compiled a fan curated album under the name Laundry Service that picks the best songs from these 3 albums and puts them together.
1.) Hips Don’t Lie (feat. Wyclef Jean)
2.) La Tortura (feat. Alejandro Sanz)
3.) Whenever, Wherever
4.) Animal City
5.) Escondite Ingles
6.) Ready for the Good Times
7.) How Do You Do
8.) Te Dejo Madrid
9.) La Pared
I just wanted to expand upon my last point that it was hard for Shakira starting out in America. Listen to the English version of Whenever, Wherever and then listen to the Spanish one. It’s a complete night and day in terms of confidence from her voice and may as well be considered 2 different songs. The website Bland Is Out There wrote that “In English, Shakira’s vocals are breathy and nasal. But in her native tongue, she’s commanding and willowy.” Also, I just wanted to point out the line in the song where she says, “lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains.” I just thought that was funny and showed how down to earth and humble she truly is.
By early 2008, Shakira was ranked as the fourth richest woman on Earth by earth. Then in July of that year, she added onto that wealth signing a 10-year $300 million deal with Live Nation for her touring rights. Embolden as an artist and her ability to speak English, Shakira released her most Pop centric album to date in 2009 called, “She Wolf.”
1.) She Wolf
2.) Did It Again (feat. Kid Cudi)
3.) Long Time
4.) Why Wait
5.) Good Stuff
6.) Men In This Town
8.) Spy (feat. Wyclef Jean)
9.) Mon Amour
10.) Anos Luz
11.) Give It Up To Me (feat. Lil Wayne)
As of today, it has sold 2 million records worldwide. Make no mistake about it, She Wolf is distinctly Shakira and only works because of how crazy and funny she is. For example, she complains that Matt Damon’s not meant for her, and wishes her ex-lover and his new girl a horrible vacation where the room smells, and the toilet doesn’t flush. Only Shakira can pull off an album this silly and still make it a work of musical quality. As Stephen Thomas Erlewine perfectly states, it’s a “celebration of all the strange sensuality that comes out at night.”
Shakira’s 9th studio album “Sale el Sol” was released in October 2010 and has since gone on to sell 4 million copies. It was a Spanish language album and I love this whole outing, as I think it’s the best Spanish pop rock songs she has made before or since.
Sale el Sol
1.) Waka Waka (This Time For Africa)
2.) Loca (feat. El Cata)
3.) Gordita (feat Residente Calle 13)
4.) Addicted to You
5.) Rabiosa (feat. El Cata)
7.) Tu Boca
And now we’re nearly at the end. Just two more albums to go. What a coincidence that I feel Shakira’s best album also happens to be her latest. Her 10th album, 2014’s self-titled “Shakira.”.
I honestly think this is her best album from top to bottom and the best she has ever done. Words can’t describe how perfectly crafted this album is.
And finally, we’re at her most recent album, number 11 to be exact. 2017’s El Dorado
1.) Me Enamore
2.) Chantaje (feat. Maluma)
3.) Perro Fiel (feat. Nicky Jam)
4.) La Bicicleta
While I think the singles I love from this album are BY FAR her strongest yet, the album as a whole is not my favorite outing for her. That being said, these singles are so well made to the point it’s scary just how much Shakira has improved as an artist to when she just started out. She went next level with these singles. Shakira is the rare pop star who can pull an album together through sheer force of personality. Whatever the genre, she not only sounds comfortable, she sounds powerful. So, I suggest giving this a listen just to see for yourself how she has matured as an artist over the year’s.
And that’s it. Shakira. More than meets the eye don’t you agree? I hope you enjoyed the read and let me know down below what you think. If you want to add any songs you think I’ve omitted, do so and I’d love to be convinced they are great otherwise.