Shakira’s Sense and Sensuality
The Singer Has the Moves, and Is Busy Planning Her Next Ones
BARRANQUILLA, Colombia hen she was just a second-grader, Shakira Isabel Mebarak Rippoll’s dream was to join the choir at the prim-and-proper Maria the Teacher Catholic school in this traditionbound Caribbean city. But the music director felt that her potent voice would overwhelm the syrupy cadence of the other children.
“My voice was strong and I wanted to sing out loud, and he didn’t think I was the right choice for the choir,” she recalls. “And he never let me be in the choir. It was such a huge frustration for me.”
Downcast, she found solace with her parents, who encouraged her to enter local singing competitions. Soon she began racking up the trophies. And in her early teens the diminutive girl with the throaty, commanding voice struck out on her own, which as it turns out has been an enduring feature in her career.
Having long shed her last name and dyed her black hair blond, Shakira is now a 30-year-old swivel-hipped bombshell who has become Latin America’s most successful crossover artist. Last fall at the Latin Grammy Awards, she won four of the five awards for which she was nominated, including female pop vocal album of the year, song of the year and album of the year for “Fijación Oral Vol. 1.” But coming off the follow-up “Oral Fixation Vol. 2,” her second English-language album and featuring the smash single “Hips Don’t Lie,” Shakira is entering territory that, for other global stars like her, has sometimes resulted in cookie-cutter music and artistic oblivion (see: Ricky Martin). The question is whether the pressures to produce top-selling albums will check the inventiveness that some music critics say has set her apart from other sex-shilling pop stars (see: Britney Spears).
Shakira’s voice and sexy stage presence have spelled success, but she’s determined to keep her act fresh.