“Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53,” by Colombian star Shakira and Argentine DJ Bizarrap, was released Jan. 11 with little notice, save for two collaborative social media posts: One announcing the track was coming out, and the other saying, “Available now.”
Within 24 hours, the session had accumulated over 15 million streams on Spotify, topping the service’s Top 50 global playlist; meanwhile, the video racked up more than 55 million views on YouTube, a record for a Spanish-language song. That single-day count also allowed it to debut at No. 12 on the Billboard Global 200 and No. 8 on the Billboard Global Excl. U.S. this week (it will likely hit the Billboard Hot 100 next frame, after a full week of tracking).
A knee-jerk explanation for the song’s success is simple, and not untrue. Shakira — a global superstar — did a post-breakup diss track based on very public events with her very famous ex-boyfriend, Gerard Piqué, with whom she shares two sons. Who wouldn’t pay attention?
But that alone doesn’t account for the extraordinary numbers “Vol. 53” is pulling.
Salty post-breakup tracks are the stuff big hits are made of — and historically, there’s been plenty. Witness last year’s “Mamii” by Karol G and Becky G, where Karol G ostensibly talks about ex Anuel AA (“I see you on social media, can’t believe it, feel so sorry for you; I was such a good girl, and you piece of gonorrhea, this is how you pay me back”), but never names him.
Shakira, on the other hand, is anything but ambiguous in “Vol. 53,” taking no prisoners and naming names.
While this may be par for the course in the rap world, in pop, it’s practically unheard of — and in Spanish pop, it had never happened before. With her session, Shakira took the notion of the pop diss track into new territory, where kiss-and-tell comes with names, details and punishment all bundled into one delicious package that can be (and has been) dissected, reproduced and parodied in thousands of ways on social media.
If you had somehow never heard about Shakira’s breakup with longtime partner and soccer star Piqué, who left the 45-year-old singer for a 23-year-old, you can hear all about it in “Vol. 53,” which not only drops Piqué’s name, but also that of his supposed paramour — and on top of that, goes into minute details.
“I’m worth two 22-year-olds,” sings Shakira, alluding to her age and that of the now-23-year-old rumored girlfriend. She also bluntly acknowledges her problems today – “You left me your mother as my neighbor / Media outlets at my door and in debt with the government” – effectively owning the personal drama that’s played out to endless speculation in the press and on social media.
The salaciousness has literally and figuratively drawn gasps from fans, artists and media pundits worldwide. While we are used to Shakira’s songs being extremely personal (after all, her 2017 “Me Enamoré” is all about falling in love with Piqué), they’re also usually polite and more reliant on figures of speech than actual details.
“Vol. 53” has fueled additional debate about artists airing dirty laundry and whether women — Latin women in particular — are held to a double standard in terms of taking a public stance against those who’ve done them wrong. Regardless, women have long used their songs as cathartic vehicles to expunge their feelings following public breakups. “You’re so vain; you probably think this song is about you,” sang Carly Simon back in 1972, and although the Hot 100-topper was partially about ex Warren Beatty, Simon didn’t admit as much until 40-some years later. And while everyone knew Olivia Rodrigo’s breakthrough No. 1 “Drivers License” was directed at her ex-boyfriend and High School Musical: The Musical: The Series co-star Joshua Bassett, she didn’t name him in the lyrics.
Then there’s Paquita La Del Barrio with her legendary “Rata de Dos Patas” (“Two-footed rat”) and her rallying cry: “Are you listening, useless one?” And there’s also Ivy Queen’s epic “La Vida Es Así,” where she not only confronts the woman her man is cheating on her with, but also lets her know he’s not a good lay.
But nothing matches Shakira’s direct finger-pointing, which has proven combustible.
Perhaps not coincidentally, the last time a song in Spanish got this explicit in terms of naming names was last year in another Bizarrap session. Bizarrap’s “Vol. 49,” featuring Puerto Rican rapper Residente, was a diss track against the current state of Latin urban music with pointed and personal references to Colombian star J Balvin. It also caused a social media uproar, and became Bizarrap’s biggest global hit ever up until that point.
For the 24-year-old Bizarrap, whose sessions have now racked up billions of views in less than three years, the whole point is granting musical and lyrical liberty during what he initially conceived of as freestyle sessions.
“Music is a space of liberty, and my sessions are no exception,” Bizarrap told Billboard during a Q&A at Latin Music Week in September 2022. “Artists can say what they really feel and take charge of their feelings. They can express themselves in the way they need in the moment they need. I will never tell an artist he or she can’t say something.”
That, ultimately, may be the key to Shakira’s biggest single in over a decade: She is finally free.