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How Shakira turned pain into art on her first album in seven years, 'Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran'

Associated Press Tuesday, 14 May 2024, 12:35 Last update: about 2 months ago

Shakira, the boundary-breaking Colombian performer, has been remarkably consistent since beginning her career in the early '90s. Without fail, she toured, released albums, won awards, woven global, genre-defying sounds into her pioneering singles, performed at the Super Bowl halftime show and more. Then, things slowed. Or so it appeared.

In reality, the last few years haven't been kind to Shakira. In 2022, after 11 years and two children together, she separated from soccer player Gerard Piqué, leading to what she's called the "dissolution of my family." She faced charges of tax evasion in Spain; in November 2023, she received a suspended three-year sentence and paid a fine of 7.3 million euros ($8 million) in addition to previously unpaid taxes and interest.

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On "Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran," her first new album in seven years, Shakira transforms her pain into art — from the bachata "Monotonía" to the electro-pop "Te Felicito" to the mega viral "Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53" and beyond.

"I've been through so much in these past few years that I had to literally pick up the pieces of myself and put them back together," Shakira told The Associated Press over Zoom from Miami. "And during that process, I think that music was the glue."

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: It has been seven years since your last album, "El Dorado." What did you learn about yourself, musically, in that time?

SHAKIRA: Well, in those seven years I've been raising kids, I've been learning a lot about myself as a mother, as a woman. But I've also been making music. It's just that it's been more of a sporadic thing, you know, here and there. Whenever I had a chance to put out a song, I did that. But I didn't have the time to really put a whole body of work. This time, it was a compulsion and a need. It was really important for me to be able to express, in and through these songs, so many life experiences and to find catharsis, you know, and to be able to find the therapeutic effects of writing and see myself back in the studio.

AP: You've called "Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran" a concept album. What story is it telling?

SHAKIRA: Because there's a great diversity in this album — I know it's a conceptual album — but it didn't happen on purpose. Nobody chooses to go through the kind of life experiences that I went through when I was writing and creating this album, you know, life gives you lemons. So what do you do? Make lemonade. So I made songs. But there is a great variety within this album. There's pop, there's Afrobeat, there's reggaeton. There's some Mexican regionals as well. Rock. But there is a common thread. And that is based off of genuine, authentic life experiences and the process of elaborating those intense emotions and feelings that I've been having to deal with during this past couple of years.

AP: You're no stranger to embracing global sounds. On this album, you worked with Grupo Frontera and Fuerza Regida — two regional Mexican artists who are bringing their music to the global stage. That's something you know a thing or two about.

SHAKIRA: When I first started out in this industry, it was predominantly male. It was difficult for a Colombian girl. I had to knock (on) so many doors, just do a lot of convincing. Convince all the gatekeepers, the directors of radio stations who would decide back in the day, who would like what music would get programmed, what music wouldn't.

But now it is different, you know, now people decide for themselves. I think music has been democratized in a way. And that's why, Latin artists have really, found a platform for their music not like it was 10, 20 years ago... And now, Latin artists have a lot more opportunities. And it's true that the Mexican regional artists are also among that group of artists that are now being played in so many more stations in Colombia and other places of the world and here in the United States as well.

Mexico has been such an important part of my career. It's a country that I owe so much to. And it's been just a wonderful experience to be able to collaborate with some Mexican artists as well on this album. It's my small homage to Mexican music, that genre and to the Mexican people.

AP: "She Wolf" turns 15 this year. As a listener, that album felt like a shift in your career — and so does this one. Do you see parallels?

SHAKIRA: I do, because it is the renaissance of the "She Wolf," in a way. It is the rebirth of that primal force that I feel that all women have within ourselves. It's that force that allows us to give birth, feed our offsprings, guarantee their survival of their species, fight whatever fight we have to fight against.

I had to resort to that She Wolf within me to be able to survive.

I was in a fight or flight sort of mode for a while and I think it is that She Wolf" within us women today that is taking society to where it's going, you know, at the moment. Women are natural multitaskers. We can do everything. We can really survive wars and rebuild cities after they're destroyed. So, my life was in pieces after, you know, the dissolution of my family, and so many other things that I had to go through.

That's why this album is called "Women No Longer Cry." Because I feel that women, you know, for ages have been sent to cry with a script in their hands. And just because we women conceal our emotions in front of our kids and just show good manners and accept it all, and now it's different. I think that as women now we decide when to cry, when not to cry and how to do it, if we decide to cry. So, it's like no one has to tell us how to heal.

AP: I haven't seen anyone refer to this as a "divorce album."

SHAKIRA: This is not a divorce album. It's an album that gathers many different life experiences, that gathers the transformation of vulnerability into resilience, the empowerment of finding your strength.

It doesn't only talk about pain; it also talks about triumph. And that's why these tears are not tears made of resentment anger or just sadness, but tears of triumph and tears of self-recognition and finding confidence within.

It's not linear. There's ups and downs and valleys and peaks. And this album is made of all of those dynamics.

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