Shakira Tells Nile Rodgers About The Impact Of ‘Whenever, Wherever’, Working with Beyoncé and Cardi B, Singing In Spanish V English, And More…

Shakira sat down with Nile Rodgers for the latest episode of ‘Deep Hidden Meaning’ to discuss her new album, ‘Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran.’ She talks about starting out as a female pop star in Colombia, the differences between singing in Spanish and English, and combating the Anglo-centric radio stations at the time. She also talks about working with Beyoncé and Cardi B and also collaborating with her sons on ‘Acrostico.’ Shakira delves into her cathartic songwriting process and how creating this album has impacted her grieving process.

Shakira tells Nile Rodgers about the impact of ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ and working with Wyclef Jean…

Nile Rodgers: I mean, it's still, I mean, no matter what, no matter what, every time I want to say your name, I want to go, ‘Shakira Shakira’ I can't help it.

Shakira: That I owe to Wyclef Jean. Because that was genius and has become like a brand. Yeah, Wyclef. He's just out of this world. He's just out of this world. His voice, his talent, the pure chemistry that we had as artists, colleagues, working together, creating, it was just uncanny. Yeah, one of the greatest moments of my career undeniably. People still ask me questions like, "So do your hips lie?" No, they don't. They're very honest. Honest hips.

Shakira on grieving and healing through the journey of the album…

In the oldest stages of grieving, you go through so many different emotions. First you blame yourself, then you blame others, then you feel anger, then frustration, then empowerment. Then at some point, denial, at some point acceptance, at some point anger again, at some point sadness, at some point melancholy. And at some point empowerment again, and the celebration of that and the joy of feeling stronger. So there’s so much on this album that really shows that journey because the road to healing is not linear. It’s full of peace and valleys and curves and fast turns. And that’s how my process was.

Shakira talks about working with Beyoncé on ‘Beautiful Liar’…

She’s just so incredible at what she does for minorities in the US and around the world, what she’s done for women of colour, what she’s done for women in general. The purpose that her life and her music has. It’s undeniable and it’s of a great magnitude. I think we don’t even realise what she’s done at a social level, at a political level as well. And just participating with her, watching her work, I realised, wow, there are people who work as hard as I do.

She’s a hard worker. She’s Queen Bee. And she’s also very detail oriented, really involved and curious. She wanted to learn some of my moves, she’s like “Teach me how to do that.” You can tell that she’s a person that is constantly growing because she observes and learns, and having that intellectual curiosity I think is what makes you evolve as an artist. And I was learning from her at the same time. So that’s the beauty of those collaborations. It’s like you really walk out understanding a lot of things about other artists, but also about yourself and what you’re able to do and setting new goals and new challenges for yourself.

Shakira on using songwriting as a catharsis and Bizarrap Music Sessions, Vol. 53…

It’s so much easier when I’m by myself with a piece of paper and a pen or in front of my computer and just let it all out. It’s catharsis. And I do feel so much better after I write. It’s like magic.

I remember I wrote Session 53, and there were a lot of people on my team and people who live close to me who were really concerned about the song coming out, the lyrics. A lot of people were advising me to just modify the lyrics and make sure I didn’t get into trouble. But I just couldn’t do it. I’m an artist, and I have an obligation to myself and as a woman, and no one is supposed to tell me how I’m supposed to heal.

It’s like a big weight off my shoulders, and that is when I started to heal. It’s not that I’m completely healed, it takes time. I don’t know if the wounds will be entirely closed, but I’ve come a long way. And my music has been my most loyal helper. The opportunity that I’ve had to use my songs as a channel to exercise all the demons and to understand my own pain and how to overcome it, it’s been so useful.

Shakira talks about singing in English…

[Whenever, Wherever] was part of my ‘Laundry Service’ album, which was my first crossover album to the Anglo World and the first album that actually brought songs into English when I could barely speak that language. One of the biggest intellectual challenges of my artistic life. I really pushed myself to write songs in English. Well, my entire life I was listening to music in English, but I really didn’t know what I was saying when I was singing those songs. When I lived in Colombia, I just didn’t speak the language, but I loved so many bands from the 90s, Nirvana and all the alternative rock from Seattle. I was so into that, and also generally rock music, Metallica, some new wave artists, New Order.

So I did it for ‘Laundry Service’ and ‘Whenever Wherever’ was, I think the first single of that album. And it just blew my mind, how people received it and how the album went around the world. Made me go around the world so many times on tour, and it’s just a very exciting time in my life.

Shakira talks about preferring her new music…

Shakira: This is a different time in my life with this album, and I think I’ve come a long way, but I prefer what I do today. I don't know, is that something that happens to all of us, that we like ourselves better with time?

I wonder if that happens to all artists. I prefer the stuff I do now. I prefer the music that I do now and the way I sing and interpret now, the way I write now. I like my stylistic choices. I think they’re better now than, I don't know, 20 years ago.

Nile Rodgers: I think that’s what we call maturity. If you don’t develop, what’s the point? If you’re just going to stay the same, why be an artist? If you just feel like, “I’ve already made my biggest statement, why continue?” And that’s why I keep making music. I feel like my best days are ahead of me instead of behind me.

Shakira: Yeah. Well, that’s the attitude. I think that’s the way that every artist needs to think in order to evolve right?

Shakira talks about starting out as a female pop artist in Colombia…

Nile Rodgers: If you don’t grow, I think that you find that you get somewhat jaded. You start to think, well, or maybe you start to doubt yourself. And God knows it’s hard enough because record companies, it’s hard to convince them. So the last thing you want to do is have your own self-doubt.

Shakira: In Colombia, the pop scene was nonexistent. There were no pop artists. Everything was tropical music and male singers. And imagine I started my career when I was 13, 14 years old in this kind of industry. And then when I decided to cross over. There weren’t Colombian artists out there that were representing our music, our culture. So I got tired of running into journalists who would make stupid jokes. There was a lot of prejudice about Colombia where I came from, always associating with the drug dealing business, violence. It’s like there was nothing else to talk about from my country.

When it’s an amazing, colourful country full of life and talent and intellectual wealth. And so it was challenging. I remember some magazine cover saying, ‘Shakira is the second most known export product of Colombia.’ That really bothered me because there was not a musical scene. There was nothing going on.

Shakira talks about the gatekeepers of radio and the impact of digital platforms on music…

The industry was really manipulated and operated by just a few who were making decisions, like the gatekeepers were the ones who decided what would be the programme generating station. The radio station directors would decide if people were going to listen to your music or not. They were the bosses. They were really people who would decide over your fate as an artist.

So it was really nerve wracking. I remember even with ‘Hips Don’t Lie,’ it’s a song that in the middle of the song, it has a cumbia in it. And so for some people it seemed like it was going to be an impossible task to get that song on the radio. ‘La Tortura’ also, reggaeton, a collaboration with a Spanish artist on a song in Spanish. Who would’ve thought that that song was going to make it on American radio? It was going to play on European radio.

Little by little, we were tearing down walls and rearranging paradigms. But it was a journey. Now it’s different. Now people decide what they want to listen to. It’s more democratic. It’s a different era, and that’s why there’s more artists and there's more room for more artists as well, because the digital platforms allow that.

Shakira talks about ‘La Tortura’ as the first Spanish-language collaboration

What’s interesting about that song is that it was, I think, probably one of the first collaborations that were ever made in Spanish language music. Back in those days, people didn’t collaborate, not like today. You hear even four artists on one record. But back in the day, the artists were solo. They were very solitary, competitive to a certain extent. So when I reached out to Alejandro Sanz to participate on the song, I think we were breaking the paradigm and we were setting a new trend.

La Tortura is a reggaeton song. It’s just that it has some Spanish flamenco-ish nuances that might fool you, but it is a reggaeton. It’s one of the first reggaeton pop songs that were published. When reggaeton wasn’t even popular in Spain, but that song made it in Spain, and it took a few years later for reggaeton to make it into territories like Spain.

Shakira talks about singing in Spanish v English…

I think that Spanish artists right now don’t need to sing in other languages to reach a global audience because the world is a lot more receptive than when I first started. But I don’t decide if I’m going to sing a song in a language, in English or Spanish, based on the audience that I’m going to reach. It’s an organic process. It’s not a premeditated process in which there are formulas that work or don’t work. There are songs that are meant to be in English because they were conceived that way.

Shakira on the importance of being an authentic artist…

It’s like people have this ultra sensitive intelligence, or almost metaphysical that they can really understand the artist’s intentions. They smell what’s true, what’s authentic, and differentiate what’s genuine from what is not. So that’s why we have to continue being authentic and truthful to ourselves and our instincts and our intuition, because that’s really the formula to success. If we calculate things too much, there's a disconnection between the artist’s sensibility and what people perceive. And that disconnection is usually what leads to failure. There have been moments when you think things too much and that doesn’t really work.

Shakira on ‘Punteria’ and working with Cardi B…

‘Punteria’ is such a lighthearted pop song that has a lot of lively moments, and especially the fact that I have Cardi B on the track made it all the more special. She is an absolute pleasure to work with. She’s an excellent artist with a great sense of humour and ingenious in her lyrics. But she’s also so humble and just nice to be around, a nice artist to work with. So collaborative and cooperative. I think Cardi is really the cherry on the cake for this album, like a symbol of female empowerment. And that is something that this album celebrates. She’s unapologetic. She doesn’t ask for permission when she has to say something. She says what she thinks and doesn’t usually think a lot of what she says, she just lets it out as an impulse. I like the impulsive side of Cardi and I really enjoyed having her on this track.

Shakira talks about collaborating with her kids on ‘Acrostico’

The word Acrostico defines a literary figure, you can use the first letter of each sentence, but when you read it vertically, you have a name or a word, the first letter of each sentence forms a word. So in this case, if you read through the lyrics of the song, the first verse, you read it vertically. It says Milan, the name of my oldest song, and the second verse is Sasha, my second son.

I wrote the song for them. And when I was recording it in the studio, they’d sometimes hang out with me in the studio, and they went to visit me and spend some time with their mama. And they started to sing the song on the microphone, because they already knew it by heart from listening to me. And they sounded so great. And they asked me, “Mom, can we be on the record? Can we?” I’m like, “Oh, well, I don’t know.” How could I resist? Their voices sound so sweet, and I feel like they’re really good singers. I have no objectivity, they were in tune with the song, with the sentiment in the song. They completely understood what I meant with the lyrics.

They were my amazing collaborators on this track. The collaboration of my dreams, of my life. I’ve had many wonderful collaborators on this album and in my career, but nothing like my kids.