Shakira is a Colombian singer-songwriter whose hit singles ‘Whenever, Wherever’ and ‘Loca’ gained her global popularity and fame as the Queen of Latin Music. But while Shakira’s musical career is widely celebrated, not much is known about her life before she achieved success. So what did Shakira do before she was famous?
Before her 1998 album ‘Laundry Service’ made her a commercial success, Shakira had released multiple Spanish albums in her home country Colombia as a teenager, albeit to moderate success. With the release of ‘Laundry Service’, Shakira moved from Spanish to English music and achieved wide acclaim.
Read more about Shakira’s Colombian upbringing, her first experiences in the music industry, and how transitioning to writing music in English instead of Spanish brought her global success and fame.
A Colombian Songwriter
Shakira was born and raised in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, where she wrote her first poem at four years old.
Growing up, Shakira continued writing poetry, and ultimately turned much of her poetry into songwriting.
When she discovered belly dancing as a child, Shakira realized she wanted to be a performer, and so she started performing at local events and talent shows and gained first recognition in her hometown.
This is how Shakira met a local theater producer, who introduced her to executives from Sony, who ended up giving Shakira a contract to produce three albums.
Shakira subsequently released her first two studio albums ‘Magia’ (1990) and Peligro (1993), which did not do well commercially but gained Shakira first national exposure in Colombia.
As a result of the commercial failure of her two albums, Shakira decided to take a break from music. She finished high school and starred in a Colombian TV-show instead.
In 1995, she returned to music and released her third album with Sony, ‘Pies Descalzos’, which became a success in Latin music.
The album hit the charts with its single ‘Donde Estas Corazon?’ and sold more than five million copies. Shakira went on tour with this album in South America and was recognized for it in the Latin music industry, gaining three Billboard Latin Music Awards.
Building on her success, Shakira then released a fourth album called ‘Donde Estan los Ladrones?’, which achieved acclaim in America and was nominated for a Grammy in 1999.
The album’s first international success went on to signal Shakira’s break into the American music industry.
Music in English
Seeing that her fourth album had gained her popularity outside of Latin America, Shakira decided to release the same album in English.
Shakira published ‘Laundry Service’ in 2001, which became an instant number-one hit success internationally, while the song ‘Whenever, Wherever’ gained her worldwide fame as a Latin artist.
Transitioning her music into the English-speaking music industry made Shakira’s name well-known far outside her native Colombia and established Shakira’s presence in the North American market.
Ever since the release of ‘Laundry Service’, Shakira has enjoyed unparalleled success as a Latin performer in the English-speaking music industry.
Albums like ‘Oral Fixation’ (2005) and ‘She Wolf’ (2009), and hit singles like ‘Hips Don’t Lie’, ‘Loca’, ‘La Tortura’, ‘Bailando’ and Waka Waka’ have only manifested Shakira’s commercial success.
In focussing on releasing English and including Latin instruments and dance in her performances, Shakira has carved a unique career for herself.
Today she is the recipient of three Grammy Awards and 12 Latin Grammy Awards and counts as one of the world’s best-selling artists. She has also performed at the Super Bowl together with JLO in 2020.
This shows that while Shakira’s commercial success globally came when she started recording music in English, Shakira has been a performer and songwriter since she was a child, which has doubtlessly paved the way for the success she has today.