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Shooting the sh*t with Shakira: the biz, her best songs & her worst record

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Hey, Shakira. How are ya? Listen, I know we’ve had our differences, with me calling you a sellout and all that, but our silly quarrels have always been in good fun. I mean, you did go from being a rowdy non-conformist who raged against the patriarchy, to signing your soul over to the Estefans, the Latino music mafia who dyed your hair, dressed you in tight, provocative leather outfits, and asked you to roll around in mud.

I know, “the price of fame,” and the Estefan monopoly. But let’s not get into that discussion all over again.

Those bits aside, you’ve always had my respect. Mostly because you’ve consistently produced catchy, unconventional songs, such as “La tortura.” Frankly, I’ve always been fascinated by your career. Hardly anybody else from Latinoland has gone from making terribly tragic pedophile pop, to becoming a world-famous megastar.

Yes, you’ve always given me something like in all your records, except one: 2014’s Shakira, your self-titled 10th studio record. I know precisely why I hate it, too: It’s the whitest, most American-sounding LP in your discography.

Listen, Shak, *puts down coffee mug* you never had to play up the sexy Latina angle to make good music. “Loba,” for example, is a great electro pop tune. You didn’t even need to film the video inside a pulsating vagina, but what’s done, is done.

But if somebody told me certain songs off Shakira, such as “Spotlight” and “Broken Record,” were written by Taylor Swift, the blandest pop star America has been cursed with, I’d be none the wiser.

“Medicine,” the collaboration with your Voice co-host Blake Shelton, is offensively bad. Likewise, the world’s entire supply of penicillin isn’t enough to kill the infection that spread inside my ears after listening to the lyrics on “23”: “I used to think there was no God, but then you looked at me with your blue eyes, and my agnosticism turned to dust.” I understand you’re referencing the birth of your son, but that phrase gave me tinnitus.

Speaking of, you have a unique claim to fame, comadre: you’ve written some of the most brilliant lyrics in pop music, and some of the worst.

Thankfully, Shakibebé, you came around — at least musically — with 2017’s El Dorado, a decent pop record. It’s not groundbreaking, and you suddenly find yourself chasing trends, as opposed to setting them, since you already dabbled in reggaeton, among other Latino genres, on Fijación Oral and Sale el sol. But “La bicicleta” and “Me enamoré” are solid pop tracks, no doubt about that.

Well, it’s been nice talking to you, gurl — even if you still don’t know I exist, or care. Let’s keep up these fun, one-way chisme-chats.

I gotta go, but I’ll let you get back to your magnetic career:

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Pope Francis dropped the sickest mixtape ever, and nobody noticed it

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Titled Pope Francis: Wake Up!, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, aka the Dope Pope, dropped the sickest mixtape the streets of the Vatican will ever produce, and nobody noticed it.

No, you won’t hear Francis doing a trap version of “Spirit in the sky.” Jorge is darker. On his street-wise LP, Sir Preach-a-lot churns out hard-ass monologues, all of which have been written and recorded with various collaborators:

“Under the art direction of Don Giulio Neroni, who also curated other albums for Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI, various Italian artists and producers also contributed to the music like Giorgio Kriegsch, Mite Balduzzi, Giuseppe Dati, Lorenzo Piscopo, the orchestral director Dino Doni, and former member of Italian progressive rock band Le Orme.”

Sure, Bergoglio is not producing his own tracks à la Dr. Dre, but that doesn’t make Pope Francis: Wake Up! any less incisive, penetrating, and epic — like, Cradle of Filth level of epic.

Take “Wake up! Go! Go!” — sadly, it’s not a Wham! cover — but a fine prog rock track that’s been mixed with a horn section from the middle ages. On “La fe es entera,” Francis tells his listeners that “it’s scandalous that God arrived and became one of us — it’s just a scandal. The scandal of the cross is… well, still a scandal.”

But the real scandal are the Pope’s rhymes, which are quite somber. On “¿Por qué sufren los niños? [why do children suffer?], Bergoglio, true to Catholic dogma, preaches all the hard truths, such as “this world needs to cry more.” Why? Because Catholics mustn’t have any happy thoughts without feeling terrible about it. Doing so is like pounding ten rusty nails into Jesus’ already-mangled appendages.

Perhaps not sonically, but thematically Pope Francis: Wake Up! makes Bauhaus’ “Stigmata martyr” sound like “Despacito.” Not all of it, of course. “Pace! Fratelli!” sounds like an Enya-penned track that’s been produced by Giorgio Moroder, but sung by castrated monks.

Pope Francis: Wake Up! really makes me feel like Jesus inside me, and I’m not talking about some Mexican dentist.

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Letters to Rictus: “My girlfriend supports #MeToo, but loves reggaeton. She’s tripping, right?”

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Doña Rictus, my girlfriend is smart, young, fun-loving Latina. She’s college-educated, has a good job, pays her taxes, and comes from a relatively conservative family, like most Latinos.

She’s cultured and politically active. Earlier this year she participated in the Women’s March and, when she’s not going to design fairs, or some indie rock concert, she’ll digest all the lefty publications.

Then she gets drunk. After she sips on the Devil’s nectar, she turns into a Sábado Gigante model who’s been hypnotized and asked to sweep the floor with her ass. She’ll scream “¡Hasta abajo!” and “¡Dale con todo!” and other shocking phrases our Bernie Sanders-voting friends always reel from.

“In reggaeton they call you a whore, woman. Get it through your head.”

As a progressive, and as a woman, she’s obviously very supportive of the #MeToo movement. But we’ve gotten into arguments over how reggaeton has always been at odds with true feminism. She’s not a silly Maluma apologist yet, but I’m afraid she may turn into one soon, and that’s a strain our relationship can not handle.

You write about reggaeton, its influence, and its popularity quite often. What’s you take on all this?

Sincerely,

Yo También Quiero Que Te Respetes

*Takes off reading glasses*

Curiously, dear Rictus reader, NPR’s Alt-Latino published a podcast about this subject earlier today. In it, the participants discussed the advances “el género” (reggaeton) has made towards being less misogynist.

Most people will probably agree that old-school reggaeton is, without a doubt, extremely misogynist. New reggaeton has been sanitized for mass consumption. It’s less offensive, but calling it “feminist” would be like calling Don Francisco “entertaining.”

In fact, besides a few female performers, such as Ivy Queen, women still have almost no representation in reggaeton (see #7 here).

Some disingenuous people have been trying to pass “Despacito” as an achievement for women because it was co-written by a woman, but the harsh truth is that Luis Fonsi’s song is still about a guy who aggressively hits on a girl, and the lyrics leave a lot to be desired:

“Si te pido un beso, ven dámelo (If I ask you for a kiss, come give it to me)… Quiero, quiero, quiero ver cuánto amor a ti te cabe (I want to see how much of my love you can fit in)”

But talking about misogyny in music — or life, really — remains an uncomfortable subject. Even Roxanne Gay, a very smart, popular, and beloved feminist, has conflicting feelings when it comes to enjoying hip-hop, reggaeton’s first-world cousin:

“It’s really difficult. You hear some hip hop, and it’s just such great music, or great lyrics, or a great beat, and it grabs your interest. Then you pause and you listen to the lyrics, and they’re really damaging, or unnecessarily misogynistic. And you’re like, ‘What do you do?’

If you’re so principled that you decide that I’m going to have a zero-tolerance policy, the reality is that you’re not going to be listening to anything.”

I do have an idea, mijo. Wisin, a popular reggaetonero, revealed that women used to make up over half their audience, even when their music was at its most offensive:

“In the early days [of Wisin & Yandel], our lyrics were much more explicit and a lot of times it came across as offensive to women, who found it degrading. But women still made up about 60 or 70 % of the people buying our music, not just physical albums but digital sales.”

Considering those high numbers, it’s very much within the grasp of Latinas to influence the music industry through their buying power.

So fuck misogynist reggaetoneros. Next time your girlfriend gets wasted, begins to mop the floor with her butt, and starts shouting those aggressive phrases the Bernie Bros don’t know what to do with, put on some Mula, not Maluma.

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