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Shakira: "Latin Artists Are In A Much More Advantageous Position Now"
Shakira shook the music and sports world with the announcement in late September that she, along with Jennifer Lopez, will perform at the NFL's Superbowl Halftime show in February 2020. But before we can see the "Clandestino" singer shake her hips to her Afro-Latin pop rhythms onstage, she is gearing up to release her concert documentary Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour, coming to theatres around the world on Nov. 13.
In an interview with Billboard, the GRAMMY winner shared how the music documentary, named after her 2017 album El Dorado, represents a different facet of her life. "It’s the first time I’ve gone on the road as a mom, and even starting this album presented its difficulties," she said.
The performer also reflected on her career growth and her ever-growing fan base, and how she's seeing younger faces now more than ever. "I might not be 23, but it seems like a big portion of my audience is very, very young," she said. "It’s hard to explain, but it seems that there is a really young audience that listens to the music that I put out lately."
The interview also touched on her views of the greater music industry, including stage design and Latin music's latest rise, Colombia's pop music evolution, her much-awaited NFL performance and more.
On Where Latin Artists Stand In The U.S. Music Mainstream Today
The Colombian singer, who was a part of the "Latin Explosion" music scene in the early 2000s, along with Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, says Latin artists have a greater advantage now. While she began singing in Spanish, Shakira felt it was an organic next step for her to cross over into the U.S. English-language market with her 2001 album Laundry Service, but she still faced challenges that bilingual artists may not face now.
"When I started my career, I had to face so many different challenges that I probably would not have to face today with the way the music industry is shaped now. I started out in Colombia where there was no pop music scene, it was non-existent...This whole new world had opened up to me, and with it came so many great opportunities, but I continued to pursue impossible goals such as making a song like 'Hips Don’t Lie,' for example—that had a Colombian cumbia and a mention of Barranquilla in the middle of it—play on American radio. I remember people from my own record company telling me ‘this is never going to play on American radio,’ and I was so sure that it would. So I had to practically convince the executives in my record company to pick up all the albums I had released and reprint them with 'Hips Don’t Lie' on it. I remember I said to [then Sony Music Chairman] Donny Ienner, ‘You have to trust me on this one. This is going to happen, this song is going to blow up.’ I knew it and it happened, it was a great prophecy ...
But you can imagine the challenges I had to face when Spanish music or even Spanish-influenced music wasn’t that cool. Now it’s a different story, Latin artists are in a much more advantageous position now, but back in the day is seemed like the Great Wall of China, crossing over seemed like crossing over the Great Wall. An impossible task."
On Choosing A Simple Stage Setup In A World Full Of Grand Stage Designs
While Travis Scott added a rollercoaster to his stage and J Balvin has incorporated dinosaur visuals, Shakira went for a simple stage design on her El Dorado World Tour, a choice, she said is about her fans.
"I wanted to carry the whole weight of the show on my shoulders, I think it was a challenge artistically. And also to have the margin to improvise, to be able to just go with the flow and use the energy in the room and respond to it, and let the audience control the whole thing and make it be all about them. I was so grateful with my fans and the way they supported me, how they backed me up all this time, I just wanted the show to be about them, about the connection that I have with them, about the gratitude I feel towards them. I felt that if I brought dancers in, the show was going to be so much more rigid and scripted, and I needed to have the liberty to just respond in any way and leave some room for improvisation. I wanted to make it about the music."
On What The Concert Movie Means To Her
Not only was El Dorado the first time she went on tour as a mom, but it was also around the time Shakira recovered from a vocal cord injury, two changes she said gave her a new perspective.
"It just made me see my whole career in a different way, see my fans in a different light, and it made me realize that every night on stage was a gift and was a miracle, and I wanted to share with my fans from all over everything that I went through before they saw the final product: from the experience of going on the road as a mom for the first time, to the suffering that I went through when I lost my voice, the doubts that I felt about singing again, and when I was back how grateful I was to be back, the joy that I felt. To me, it was a very important tour, I think this album and this tour have been two of the things that I’m most proud of in my career, and to be able to share it with people all over the world, people in different countries, who belong to different cultures, speak different languages, and to be able to watch it simultaneously."
On Her Upcoming 2020 Superbowl Performance
The performance will go down on the singer's birthday, and she'll be bringing celebratory vibes with her.
"I’ll be celebrating it with I don’t know how many people watch it, I think it’s some absurd number like 100 million people. So there’s a little bit of pressure of course to do things right. I I’m going to put everything in my power, everything I’m capable of into this task and try to deliver an amazing show like the American audience deserves. I feel that this is a great responsibility too, because I’m representing the Latinos, those who are born in the U.S. and those who have been born abroad. It’s a big day for Latins, because the Super Bowl is such an important stage in the world, and being there with that purpose just makes it all the more exciting and grand. We’re waiting for the producers to give us orders about what we can and cannot do. [Laughs.] But I feel that I’m in great company [with Jennifer Lopez], and I really hope that things work out. We are really going to try and put a killer show together, the best we can."