Singer, Social Media Princess and ‘The Voice’ Judge Reaches Her Prime
By Henry Heredia
Undoubtedly with a push from co-judging “The Voice,” Shakira has soared to the top of all things social media this spring.
In March, the 5’2” Colombian spitfire topped Starcount’s global social media chart, becoming the No. 1 Facebook musician. Within one week, she received more than one million Facebook likes, plus 42 million YouTube views. She held her Starcount top spot into early April, thanks in part to her duet with fellow “Voice” judge Blake Shelton on the Academy of Country Music Awards. The duet, “Medicine,” appears on her newly released LP.
This winter, critics have raved about her turn as a judge and coach on “The Voice” singing competition. Entertainment Weekly gushed: “Shakira … is less like a diva and more of a delight — her precious accent making her all the more winsome.”
While this spring may seem all Shakira, all the time, like many overnight sensations, the 37-year-old mother of one has been at it awhile. She is the only South American artist to have a No. 1 song in the United States (“Hips Don’t Lie” with Wyclef Jean in 2006).
Breaking into the American music industry is no easy task for anyone, let alone a foreigner, but that didn’t stop Shakira, one of the most successful artists in recent history. She took pop culture by storm with her first English language album, “Laundry Service,” in 2001 and has continued to stay relevant through the years.
Born in Barranquilla, Colombia, in 1977, Shakira Mebarak started out performing in school events. Singing, acting, dancing, Shakira displayed exceptional performance skills at an early age and was cast for a Colombian children’s program called “Vivan Los Niños” before she was 10 years old.
Like other artists who started out as child TV stars, Shakira was determined to stay in the limelight. After her stint on “Vivan los Niños,” she became a regular on a singing contest show called “Buscando artista infantil” in the late 1980s and in the early 90s recorded her first two albums signed to Sony Music Colombia.
“Magia” and “Peligro,” her first two albums, were both commercial flops and made Shakira doubt herself; she would later take time off making music to finish her studies. It wasn’t until 1995, when Sony Music Colombia informed Shakira they would be releasing an album of various Colombian artists, that she returned to music and wrote a song just for the album called “¿Dónde Estás Corazón?” The single became a success and was quickly picked up by local radio stations; the song, which translates to “Where Are You My Heart,” was her first track to become popular outside of her native country.
“¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?” or “Where are the Thieves?”, her second studio album, was released in 1998 and became a smash in Latin American and Spanish markets. After her success with “Where are the Thieves?” Shakira performed on MTV’s Unplugged show, giving a memorable performance that would later turn into a live album. This work earned Shakira her first Grammy Award for Best Latin Pop Album.
Once she had conquered the Spanish and Latin American markets with her fourth album, Shakira decided to take on the American English language music industry and in 2001 released “Laundry Service,” her first bilingual album.
“Laundry Service” was the album that established Shakira as a success in the United States, debuting at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard chart and launching the single “Whenever, Wherever,” song that made the public take notice of her lyrics and gyrating dancing skills. It was clear that Shakira was destined for international success.
Four years later and Shakira was a superstar in the States. In 2005 she launched her fifth album, a two-part bilingual project called “Fijación Oral, Vol. 1” and “Oral Fixation, Vol. 2.” Shakira won her second Grammy award for Best Latin Rock/Alternative Album for “Fijación Oral, Vol. 1.”
It was here where Shakira collaborated with Hatian-American artist Wyclef Jean for “Hips Don’t Lie.” The song was critically acclaimed and went triple platinum in the U.S. and double platinum in Canada. This track catapulted Shakira in the industry and opened the doors to more artist collaborations.
In 2011, Shakira began working on her seventh album but plans to launch the project where put on hold due to her unexpected pregnancy. Shakira gave birth to a boy in January 2013. She finished the album later that year and announced plans to be a judge and coach on “The Voice.”
The hitmaking dynamo is not simply a pretty face and beautiful voice. Her philanthropic streak struck early; when she was 18, she founded the Pies Descalzos (Barefoot) Foundation, a non-profit, non-governmental organization devoted to ensuring that every child can exercise his or her basic right to a quality education. Since 2011, she has served on President Obama’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. This group advises the President and the U.S. Secretary of Education on matters pertaining to the educational attainment of the Hispanic community.
Shakira has remained consistent throughout the years, always churning out hits and making the music industry take notice. She currently has a new self-titled album out and is a coach on NBC’s The Voice, a reality singing contest show, alongside artists Adam Levine, Usher and Blake Shelton.
Shakira doesn’t look like she’ll be slowing down any time soon.