SHAKIRA, DÓNDE ESTÁN LOS LADRONES? (1998): Evolution Before Laundry

SHAKIRA (3)

As 2018 World Cup started, the articles about World Cup’s official anthems and songs have been visible, such as what the best official songs is, etc.

In those articles, there is always a song candidate for the best. It’s “Waka Waka” by Shakira in 2010 (South Africa). Some people remember a controversy when Shakira, who isn’t a South African but a Colombian, was chosen for the official song though “Waka Waka” featured a portion of African hit song (“Zamina Mina” by Golden Sound from Cameroon) and collaborated with a South African band, Freshlyground. But when Shakira stood on the pre-opening stage, she killed the controversy with her powerful performance (on the contrast, her performance was awful on the closing ceremony). Her vocal was amazing while singing “Waka Waka”. Personally, I like “Waka Waka” the best for World Cup’s official songs and anthems…but Spanish version, not the English version.

Why do I like Spanish version better than English version? Shakira’s voice is totally different between Spanish and English. The vocal depth, volume, emotions, technique, everything. “Waka Waka” is actually a good example to show the difference in her performance between Spanish and English. Her voice is deeper in Spanish while kind of flat in English. And I love Shakira since she was singing in only Spanish.

The first Shakira’s song I listened was “Ciega, Sordomuda” from her 4th album, Dónde Están los Ladrones?, in 1998. It was before Shakira’s hair changed to blonde from black dread hair.

This one

My first experiment of Shakira was not radio or listening station at Virgin Megastore I used to hang around but a bar. I stopped over at an old Latino bar near a subway station one night. The reason why this non-Hispanic man went to the Latino bar was I had ample waiting time for the next train during the transit…drinks were calling me 🍹. There was only one bar in front of that station. I couldn’t understand the most conversations I heard because I couldn’t speak Spanish. Then my ears were magnetted to the music suddenly came from a jukebox. Deep and strong yet feminine. So impressional vibrato rolled with her Spanish tongue. And that song. Latino nostalgia was passionate and beautiful. Not only the song mainly featured Latino instrumentals but it was clear her pride made it so. Different language didn’t matter. That was the moment the music crossed the border without obstruction.

Definitely, love at first…listening. I had to know about the singer and song. I asked a Latino girl next to me.
“Do you know who sings this song?”
“Oh yes, that’s Shakira. The song’s title is ⏺⏹🔼↖↗🆗 (that was what sounded like for me then but the girl actually said “Ciega, Sordomuda”).
The pretty Latina, who was a Colombian and Shakira’s fan, taught me some facts about Shakira: she was a Colombian singer-songwriter, still young like 21, could play guitar, and current sensation with “Ciega, Sordomuda”. She also told me who couldn’t memorize the complicated Spanish album title, that if I wanted to get the album at a record store, find a pink jacket. That was a good suggestion for me because I went to get the CD next day. I was sure that album would be good because the next song from the jukebox was also Shakira’s “Si Te Vas”, and the dynamic rock song stole my heart again.

One thing I knew after listening whole Dónde Están los Ladrones? album was Shakira would be BIG. And she became big. There was no other artist sang like Shakira. Her thick and rich voice was a character already. Shakira’s relatively low voice for a female singer was actually enchanting and sophisticated enough to seduce male fans with the emotions behind her voice no matter what language she sang. Her contralto voice gained soulful heat while transitioning from low key to high key like a hard rock singer. I didn’t doubt when I read her interview later day that some of her influences were hard rock musicians like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Powerful.

The concentration of high standard songs made this album extraordinary. The dynamism of Dónde Están los Ladrones? perfectly started with its first song, “Ciega, Sordomuda”. “Ciega, Sordomuda” is a masterpiece. Especially the first 13 seconds of its intro is one of the best intros in the world. The intro was perfect 100, seriously. The intro is extremely simple, just singing “yay, yay, yay, yayyayyayyay” with the chorus of Shakira and two male background vocalists over the minimal mariachi with trumpet and Spanish guitar. But this 13 second expressed everything about Shakira’s Latino identity and pride perfectly. Most importantly, the intro was perfect to identify what song it was. There was no other imitation. The intro itself could give me goosebumps with excitement. The following main part didn’t betray me, either. “Ciega, Sordomuda” was an uptempo mixture of Latino nostalgia and dynamic rock that reflected the attraction of  Shakira’s powerful contralto voice. The catchy melodies with effective hooks all over the song were impressive to memorize the song instantly. Definitely deserved to the exciting opening but actually good for ending as well.

The second song, “Si Te Vas”, was Shakira’s another rock anthem that wasn’t a single release. Orthodox rock with less Latino fusion, the swinging flow from energetic second verse to the rocking chorus was vibrant.

The rest of the album had a few Latin pop songs like “Moscas En La Casa”, “Tú”, and “Sombra De Ti”, but the majorities are authentic rock like “Si Te Vas” or a little Latin-flavored rock like “Ciega, Sordomuda”. Dónde Están los Ladrones? isn’t musically complicated. Yet upgrading this album dynamically comparing with Shakira’s previous albums was undoubtedly by the production skill of Emilio Estefan, as well as Shakira’s original high musicianship. Emilio Estefan helped Shakira bringing into a whole new level with this album like he did to Gloria Estefan. That is significant with her rock songs such as “Inevitable”, “Que Vuelvas”, “Dónde Están los Ladrones”, and “Ojos Así” besides “Ciega, Sordomuda” and “Si Te Vas”. The musical scale was jumped to arena rock level from club level, especially “Ojos Así”, the song calling tornado in the desert. Shakira’s music relationship with Emilio ended with only this album, and Shakira moved to a higher level with different executive producers (working with Rick Rubin for Fijacion Oral, Vol 1 was stunning. Personally, Fijacion Oral, Vol 1 is the Shakira’s best album). Still, choosing Emilio became one of Shakira’s highlights.

No explanation needed that Dónde Están los Ladrones? became a mega-hit in all over Latin America. Even in the U.S., this album has sold almost a million copies without reaching top 100. That success was a previous step for Shakira to obtain her biggest evolution being literary a worldwide star with the next Laundry Service album mainly singing in English…and blonde hair.

On September this year, Dónde Están los Ladrones? will celebrate 20 year anniversary, then Latin America stadium tour will follow after the U.S. tour in summer. Dónde Están los Ladrones? will celebrate its milestone in the middle of Shakira’s el dorado road.

A few other interesting notes about Dónde Están los Ladrones?:

1. The most significant background player was Julio Hernandez on “Ciega, Sordomuda”, the bass. He played “Te Dejo Madrid” on Laundry Service album as well. His thick bass sound with technical and amplified play always tightened up Shakira’s songs from the bottom. Good chemistry with Shakira, and I hope they will work together again in the future.

2. No duet on Dónde Están los Ladrones?. Shakira has been known for numerous collaborations with other popular singers in the last 10 years, but she didn’t duet at all until Oral Fixation, Vol. 2 in 2006, except “La Tortura” from Fijacion Oral, Vol 1 featuring Alejandro Sanz. Probably a surprising fact for her recent fans. I personally loved Shakira’s attitude going on her way without relying on the duet with trendy singers…I might be conservative.

OVERALL POINTS: 96/100

  • Eternal dopeness: ★★★★★
  • Overall integrity: ★★★
  • Songs: ★★★★+1/2
  • Originality: ★★★★★
  • Song orders: ★★★★★
  • Vocal: ★★★★+3/4
  • Background: ★★★★
  • Production: ★★★★★
  • Strong songs: “Ciega, Sordomuda”, “Si Te Vas”, “Inevitable”, “Que Vuelvas”, “Tú”, “Dónde Están los Ladrones”, “Ojos Así”

EXTRA (NOT COUNTED TOWARD THE OVERALL POINTS)

  • Title: ? (I can’t read Spanish yet)
  • Album cover: C

SHAKIRA, DÓNDE ESTÁN LOS LADRONES?

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