By Jay Darcy
There’s an abundance of reasons to lament being British right now but perhaps nothing irks mí more than our blatant disregard for Latin music (or any music that is not sang in the English language, for that matter). Latin music, especially Latin Pop and reggaeton, is huge just about everywhere except the UK. The most-streamed artist on Spotify for three years running is Bad Bunny – but most Britons would ask, “What’s a bad bunny?” ‘Despacito’ was a worldwide hit before the Spanglish remix (featuring Justin Bieber) took the UK by storm.
Then there’s Shakira – the undisputed Queen of Latin Pop. I often hear Britons (and Americans, for that matter) suggest that Shakira is no longer relevant. Sure, she’s not had a hit in the UK in close to a decade, with ‘Can’t Remember to Forget You’ (featuring Rihanna) and ‘Empire’ in 2013. But what they fail to realise is that Shakira only really records music in Spanish these days, and that Spanish music is topping charts around the world.
To put into perspective just how big Shakira is, let’s compare her recent Spanish music with some huge English-language hits. Last year, she released ‘Te Felicito’ around the same time as Beyoncé released ‘Break My Soul’, but the former has almost 200 million more Spotify streams. Likewise, she released ‘Monotonía‘ around the same time as Taylor Swift (the biggest artist in the world right now) released ‘Anti-Hero’, but whilst the music video for the latter is yet to be VEVO Certified on YouTube (it is yet to reach 100 million views), the former has amassed a whopping 164 million views.
Most female singers stop releasing hit singles once they reach 40. Many still release successful albums and go on successful tours but how many post-40 Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Shania Twain songs can you name? They might have the odd song do well – indeed, JLO and Cher were 41 and 52, respectively, when they had their biggest hits (‘On the Floor’ and ‘Believe’, respectively), but how many hits have they had since then?
Madonna, who turned 40 in 1998, is a rare example of a woman releasing smash hit singles all throughout her 40s. But the only 40+ women to still be releasing successful singles are the aforementioned Beyoncé and Shakira – and Shakira is doing it in Spanish.
Shakira’s most recent release is a collaboration with Bizarrap, entitled ‘Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53’. The diss track of the decade, the victim of the diss being Shakira’s cheating ex-partner Gerard Piqué, it has broken the internet.
It has broken numerous records. In just 10 hours, the music video reached 25 million views on YouTube, already becoming the biggest debut for a Latin song in YouTube’s history – beating ‘Despacito (Remix)’, which amassed 24.8 million views in its first 24 hours. It also amassed more streams on Spotify in a single day than any other Latin song (beating Bad Bunny), and it has achieved the biggest third day streams of all time (surpassing Taylor Swift’s ‘Anti-Hero’).
The single debuted at number 1 on Spotify Global, making Shakira one of only three female artists who debuted before the year 2000 to reach the top spot (along with Mariah Carey and Kate Bush) and the only one to do it with (a) a new song and (b) a Spanish-language song. I could go on and on but you get the message.
To appreciate just why this track is doing so well (other than the fact every Shakira song does well), you have to understand the context: Shakira’s partner of 12 years, and the father of her two kids, cheated on her with a 22-year-old. He even brought her into their family home, from where she was caught on his livestream, and rumour has it that Piqué’s mother (who he moved into a house across the road) allowed the pair to have adulterous escapades at her home. This is probably one of the many reasons why Shakira placed a statue of a witch on her balcony, overlooking her mother-in-law’s house, blasting the new song dissing her son. It’s not petty; it’s cathartic!
If you want to truly appreciate the musical masterpiece that is ‘Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53’, you’ve got to learn Spanish – or, at the very least, watch the music video with English subtitles. But there’s more to the song than the lyrics; the song and its video are filled with little references that only the biggest Shakira fans will notice. Several users have made note of these references on social media, including Melany Mora Murillo (@melanymoror2605) in a comprehensive Twitter thread. I thought I’d break it down for you (in English).
The day before the song was released, an aircraft flew a banner in Argentina, the home country of both Bizarrap and Shakira’s vengeful ex-partner, Antonio de la Rúa (who she dated before Piqué). The banner read, “Una loba como yo na estra pa’ tipos como tu,” which translates to, “A wolf for me is not for guys like you.” This phrase, which is included in the chorus of the diss track, is a direct reference to Shakira’s hit song ‘Loba’ (or ‘She Wolf’), which was released shortly before she broke up with de la Rúa. Shakira has stated that Loba is the repression that women carry inside.
In the first verse, Shakira tells Pique, “So much talk of being a champion, and when I needed you, you gave me your worst version.” Shakira, of course, met Piqué at the 2010 World Cup; he starred in the music video for ‘Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)’. Spain, Pique’s team, won that World Cup, and he won 28 titles throughout his relationship with Shakira. But when Shakira really needed him, he was not there for her.
Shakira’s father came to visit her amidst the tax scandal and fell seriously ill, so much so that he was unable to leave Spain. There are even rumours that Piqué’s well-connected family were responsible for the rumours that the reason Shakira was in hospital was to get cosmetic surgery.
Murillo reveals this is not the first time that Pique has not been there for Shakira. There are rumours that the pair almost broke up in 2016 when Shakira became depressed after losing her voice and having to postpone her tour. Allegedly, he told her that he did not want a future with a bitter woman. Well, Pique, Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, so feel the burn!
Whilst the music video is merely Shakira singing in a studio with Bizarrap, there are some artsy bits. When she says “splashes”, water splashes on the screen, before being wiped away. A little earlier, Shakira is turned into a pencil-sketch animation, seemingly a nod to A-Ha’s iconic ‘Take On Me’ music video, in which the main character is pursued by opponents. However, Murillo wonders if it is a direct reference to the animated segment of Shakira’s music video for ‘Objection (Tango)’, in which Shakira assaults her cheating partner and his mistress.
The animated section is followed by Bizarrap creating a beat similar to a beat heard in Shakira’s song ‘Me Enamoré’, a loving tribute to Piqué. The new beat seems to represent Shakira taking that devotion back, especially because the beat is followed by Shakira singing, “This is for you to be mortified, to chew and swallow, swallow and chew.” Murillo speculates that the “chew and swallow” line is a reference to Shakira discovering Piqué’s infidelity because of jelly! Sources vary – some say Piqué does not like jelly, or was simply on a diet, but, whilst Shakira was away, the jelly had been eaten, whilst others say that the flavour of jelly that Piqué does not like had been eaten.
In that same verse, Shakira sings, “You left me with your mom as a neighbour, the press at my door, and a debt with the Treasury,” references to Pique moving his mother in next door and not being there for her when the tax scandal came out. She ends the verse with, “Women no longer cry; women get paid,” perhaps a reference to Shakira having already pocketed €21 million with her anti-Piqué songs. As Taylor Swift said, men have long monetised their breakups so why are women facing criticism for doing the same thing?
The aforementioned ‘Te Felicito’ features a robot which Shakira has since included in the thumbnails for songs dedicated to Piqué (the aforementioned ‘Me Enamore’ and ‘Me Gusta’). During the second chorus of the diss track, Shakira shows off a few robotic moves, like those seen in the music video for ‘Te Felicito’ – and first seen in the music video for the aforementioned ‘She Wolf’.
Robots can, of course, symbolise a lack of humanity, but perhaps it’s also a reference to Piqué’s love of Daft Punk (an electronic duo that portray themselves as robots). After all, Shakira appropriates Daft Punk’s iconic ‘Harder, Faster, Better, Stronger’ in the first verse of the song. Whilst watching the music video, my brother told me he recognised that beat, and I’m sure others do too – it’s Daft Punk, y’all!
The song has been praised for its excellent wordplay and double entendres. In the second verse, Shakira says, “I only make music; sorry if it splashes you.” The Spanish word for “splashes” is “salpique” (sal-pique). In the pre-chorus, Shakira remarks, “She [Pique’s mistress] has the name of a good person; clearly, it’s not how it sounds.” Clara, the name of Pique’s mistress, etymologically means “brilliant and pure” and was popularised by Santa Clara de Asis in the 13th century. The Spanish word for “clearly” is “claramenta” (clara-mente).
During both of these references, Shakira appears in low-angle shots, implying that the pair are beneath her. After all, the chorus contains the line, “I was out of your league; that’s why you’ve settled with someone just like you.”
At 2:22 minutes, Shakira says, “I’m worth two 22 year olds”, at which point she displays peace signs on each finger. Ostensibly, it’s a mere reference to Piqué’s mistress’ age, but it’s also an appropriation of the iconic gesture which Piqué used to dedicate his goals to Shakira, for both he and Shakira were born on February 2nd (2/2). A further numerical reference can be seen with the length of the song: it lasts 3:33 minutes. Pique’s favourite number and his Barcelona FC shirt number? You guessed it – three!
This line is followed by a pair of lyrics that have taken the world by storm: “You traded in a Ferrari for a Twingo; you traded in a Rolex for a Casio.” Whilst this might appear to be an hilarious, simple mention of luxury brands compared to cheap brands (Shakira vs. Clara), Shakira does not do random. Indeed, Piqué is known for his love of watches and cars; he has million-dollar collections of both. Hilariously, Piqué attempted to clap back at Shakira by announcing a partnership with Casio, only for Casio’s stock market to plummet – whilst Rolex’s rose and the diss track broke records – before Casio revealed that Piqué lied. Piqué then arrived to work in a Twingo – attempting to embarrass Shakira but merely proving her point.
Following this, Shakira scoffs, “So much time at the gym but maybe work out your brain a bit too,” perhaps poking fun at Pique’s stupidity at having his wife over at the house he shared with Shakira (as aforementioned, she accidentally crashed his livestream) – and letting her eat his girlfriend’s jelly!
Eternally eclectic, Shakira has jumped around from genre to genre over the years. She fully embraced, and is partially responsible for, the mainstreaming of reggaeton, and whilst some accuse her of selling out, she simply saw the ways in which the Latin music industry was changing – and it has worked to her benefit.
Shakira is noted for her interesting and poetic lyrics, and it’s no surprise her latest track is rife with references and allegories, but even I, a huge Shakira fan, never expected her to release a diss track. She has a tendency to shy away from drama – but when your long-term partner (and the father of your kids) drags you into a drama and embarrasses you internationally, you’ve got no choice but to defend yourself. Piqué and Clara have learned the hard way not to pick a fight with the unelected head of the Spanish-speaking world.
Unexpected and cathartic, it’s only 2023, but this is sure to be the diss track of the decade.
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