¿Dónde están los ladrones?
Texas-born Latin pop star Selena cracked the door in the 1980s. The Cuban American singer Gloria Estefan knocked it open a little wider, through a series of singles ("Conga") that made Afro-Cuban rhythm an accessible exotic for middle America. And then Shakira, from Colombia, came along in 1998 with this album of seductive pan-American pop and rock. Latin crossover has never been the same.
On one level, Shakira's story is about pure ambition. After her 1996 album Pies descalzos brought her to stardom throughout Latin America, she set her sights on conquering North America. She hired Emilio Estefan (Gloria's husband and business Svengali), who put together a team of musicians and producers skilled at repurposing Latin rhythm for global consumption. This was a savvy move, as in the eyes of U.S. labels, the Estefans were proven hit-makers and could do no wrong. Shakira got the red-carpet welcome. Her flamethrowing voice and adventuresome songs did the rest.
Though ¿Dónde están los ladrones? has Spanish lyrics, the music pulls from a rich smorgasbord of world rhythms—there are updates of her homeland's stately cumbia, explorations of percussive funk, and moments that glance at urban New York-style salsa. Shakira's mother is Colombian and her father is from Lebanon, and on one track, the stellar "Ojos asi," she cannily blends elements from those disparate worlds into an unexpectedly entrancing groove. Where many in Latin pop strive for simple and repetitive words, Shakira writes as though in a romantic poet's reverie; her elegant, deeply felt images put the lyrics of many she was compared to—Estefan, Alanis Morissette—to shame. The album's title, Where Are the Thieves?, refers to a setback Shakira suffered in the early stages of the project: Her luggage, including a briefcase that contained lyrics she'd been writing, was stolen at the Bogota airport. Demoralized, she was forced to start essentially from scratch.
Dónde están, which sold over eight million copies worldwide, was the end of an era for Shakira: After this, she tarted herself up a bit, and began singing in English. On one bit of begging-for-a-hit salaciousness, she proudly proclaims that her "hips don't lie." Those hips, and the rest of her, offer more profound truths here.
Genre: World, Colombia
Released: 1998, Columbia
Key Tracks: "Ojos asi," "Ciega, sordomuda," "Si te vas," "No creo"
Catalog Choice: Laundry Service
Next Stop: Selena: Amor prohibido
After That: Bloque: Bloque
Book Page: 691
#1 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 09/24/2008 4:18
To include “Donde Estan Los Ladrones” by Shakira is all well and good, but “Fijacion Oral” is her monumental work to date, her White Album, her River. “La Tortura” from cut one, Vol 1, is the recording of the decade, and possibly the greatest pop rock recording of all time. Shakira has the most beautiful voice on the planet. Her work as an artist, performer, composer and producer was only beginning to show its phenomenal potential in 1998 when “Donde Estan Las Ladrones” was released. She has reached state of the art status with Fijacion Oral, and Mr Moon is depriving himself of aural ecstasy if he does not listen to it before he ... ah, stops listening.
#2 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 09/24/2008 5:18
comment number 1—
“La Tortura”, possibly the greatest recorded song of all time and surely the recording of this decade, not only a phenomenal recording but a great song, is cut number three of Vol 1 of “Fijacion Oral”.
#3 from tom moon - 09/25/2008 12:52
Thanks for your note and clarification. I listened to Oral Fixation V. 1 but don’t remember those tracks specifically. I’ll go back and check em out again. I remember thinking generally the production was so souped-up on that record, where Donde feels somewhat looser, making it easier to appreciate her as a lyricist. (She ventures into some deep water!)
#4 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, Minnesota - 09/25/2008 1:43
I agree that “Los Ladrones” displays Shakira’s full power as a vocalist in a band—and some band at that. I would never dispute this album’s inclusion on your magnificent list. “Fijacion” to my ear and mind shows the evolution of her genius. Yes, it is techno-pop—that’s a genre of our digital age. It is a souped up sound, and Shakira is a masterful mechanic. As long as I have you interested in listening to it again, begin at the beginning. Cut 2 of Vol 1 (“La Pared”) gives us her emotional vocal power with full studio production—the song is reprised acoustically further down the disc in stripped-down production, but the vocal genius is all there. “No” (cut 7 I think) is perhaps the saddest song I ever heard, and it is extremely difficult to sing, and Shakira lays it down with all the vocal power sadness can bring to the heart. You like disco? “Las de la Intuicion” will pump your heart muscles. “La Tortura”—given the tools of the studio—is layered deep with instruments, percussion and reverb. And Shakira’s voice is again one of the instruments. The mix is incredible. The beauty of it is, she and her band perform it live, and it is the great latin rock song she designed it to be. And if you want to hear her rock out like “Ladrones” go to Vol 2 for “Don’t Bother”—that’s rock and roll. My comments are certainly not to pick an argument, but to include work that makes my life so much more pleasurable than it would have been had I not found it. I hope you find a re-listening of Shakira’s later work as worthwhile, and with that I recommend “Laundry Service”—if “Ladrones” is her Rubber Soul, “Laundry” is her Revolver. Best regards, and thanks for the book. Well done, Mr Moon.
#5 from Benjoman, Denmark - 03/21/2009 1:15
I think she is good singer i have listened her many songs i like one great song for her album great song, is cut number three of Vol 1 of “Fijacion Oral”.
house music dj
#6 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 03/23/2009 5:28
Bejoman, music is a universal language whatever tongue the song is sung. To my ear, Shakira’s “La Tortura” is the greatest song ever recorded, from an album that is the best recording thus far this decade—album of the Century so far. So I agree with you, sir, and wish you all the best. Just tell all your friends about Shakira, the most beautiful voice on the planet.
#7 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 03/25/2009 5:55
Those who haven’t heard Shakira yet, or who don’t take her seriously, please know this: there is a very good reason she is listed within this reference book. Donde Estan Los Ladrones is a work of rock and roll genius, a Rubber Soul achievement in 1998 which few bands have since glimpsed in their dreams. One simple song from this album convinced me forever that Shakira’s voice is a virtuoso instrument and all her subsequent work is genuine artistry, the song “Sombra de Ti.” As un-souped-up (as Tom Moon might say) as she and her band have ever sounded, it’s a sultry cellar night club torch song rendered as soulfully, mournfully lovestruck as club singer could ever be on a night of bittersweet associations. That song foretold what I have concluded since, that Shakira is the most beautiful voice on the planet. Michael K, Minneapolis
#8 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 06/05/2009 4:57
Where did FreckleGirl go? FreckleGirl at http://freckle.tenkeimedia.com/ was the best resource available next to Shakira herself for Shakira’s lyrics from Espanol to English. And suddenly the website went dark. Where have you gone, FreckleGirl?
#9 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 06/16/2009 5:34
“Shakira sings. Who knew?” —Wanda Sykes to Jay Leno.
I want to be the one to nominate Shakira to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2021.
The nomination essay will credit this book (1000 Recordings) and author Tom Moon for taking Shakira seriously. Donde Estan Los Ladrones is truly a touchstone album of 20th Century Rock and Roll.
My essay in 2021 will extol cuts 2 and 6 to compare Shakira’s poetics with Leonard Cohen at a similar age. I’ll liken the riffs of “Si Te Vas” and “OCtavo Dia” to the E Street Band. “Sombra de Ti”, still sweaty from the treble of cellar door cymbalism, will bear the retelling of comment #7 above. The album is Shakira’s Rubber Soul, the product of a not-souped-up rock band fronted and led by the most beautiful voice on the planet, who happens to sing in espanol.
Her vocal range, phrasing, breathing—on record she sings with a verve most musicians reserve for live performance. She probably doesn’t need a click track.
Shakira knows she’s heard. Undistracted by words, those who don’t understand Spanish are blessed with the aspect of hearing what a truly beautiful musical instrument is Shakira’s voice.
“Ojos Asi” from the Ladrones album fused Latin rock with middle eastern soul. Donde estan los ladrones does not translate as “where are the laundromats.”
Laundry Service, Shakira’s next album in 2001, her Revolver, delivered a buff and blonde image to the U.S. market. It was like Springsteen’s Born in the USA, hustling for chart position amid an array of guilty pleasures competing for radio air time. Even though 70% sung in English, the album went into novelty exile under the gravity of 9/11.
Back in 1999, MTV made an unplugged (un-souped-up) performance video showcasing the Los Ladrones album. The show concludes with prolonged audience ovation. Is Shakira arrogant or conceited? No, not at all. Instead there is a look of dawning in her eyes as she shyly realizes what she has just accomplished, introducing the world to Latin bellydance rock and roll. She is wearing a simple jersey sweater, leather pants and high heel boots, and her loins below the waist of her long pants are wrapped with a kind of macrame beaded shawl, which she shimmied and shook to the show’s finale, “Ojos Asi.”
Seven years later, in fully veiled rope dance regalia, she sings “eso es perfecto” in “Hips Don’t Lie.”
Inevitable. Quiero creer.
Shakira never misled anyone. On Laundry Service she explained exactly what she was doing. In plain English in the song “Ready For the Good Times” she sings, “I used to read survival guides when my world was full of seven legged cats.” She concludes the song in moans of defiance. The album cover photo shows a gang tattoo. If that isn’t enough notice, there’s “Te Aviso, Te Anuncio,” the rock tango that sounds like it’s performed by a wedding reception band, where she sings, “por ti me quede como Mona Lisa.”
La Latina Sprinsteena knew all along her whole career there is no naive pretending there is no sex appeal in rock and roll, especially coming from a colombiana love song poet. Shakira never pretended to be anyone else. The mythos of rock and roll is built on the songs of tarts, rebels, martyrs and savants but does not embrace charlatans.
I trust Shakira with the future of rock and roll. It comes from a sense shared with Jon Landau’s premonition about Springsteen back in the day. It’s rooted in one’s earliest memories, Sam Cooke on the radio singing “You Send Me.”
I hear Shakira sing the simple phrase, “Ay amor,” and I trust her with the future of rock and roll.
My Shakira fixation is high-minded and academic, yes I know. It’s as serious as nobody else takes her music. Of course I am in love with her, enamored in every way with her songs and her character. Love is the very essence of rock and roll. I’m in love with the audio engineering of the mis of Fijacion Oral/Oral Fixation. She knows how to compose an album. Shakira es La Jefa del siglo vigesimoprimero—for the ages.
Shakira has nothing to prove except to herself as an artist that she has the courage to compose, perform and produce music that lives up to the integrity of her genius.
“No solo de pan vive el hombre, y no de excusas vivo yo.”
#10 from Katherine J. Werner, Saint Paul MN - 08/23/2009 10:54
MKD: Why do you say. “Shakira never misled anyone.” How would you know?
#11 from Katherine J. Werner, Saint Paul MN - 08/28/2009 12:55
And OF COURSE you are in love her, enamored by her,she’s young exotic and nearly naked….but entrust the future of rock and roll to her? Yikes. Believe in her if you like (Yo también creía.), but trust is a much bigger deal.
#12 from Michael K. Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 03/28/2010 11:18
Shakira is mad. See her on the cover of the She Wolf album. The back side has a picture of blunt force broken glass. Who got Shakira so angry? That Mon Amour guy?
Or is she crazy? Crazy like the wolf.
Most established artists don’t submit demo tapes but that’s what She Wolf feels like. Elsewhere on this website I referred to it as a sad, tragic shame but that’s gross overstatement. Sad and tragic is Haiti. The shame of the She Wolf album is that it is not just understated but unfulfilled, incomplete and unfinished.
Coming out (late) after a cover story in Rolling Stone, the album’s only buzz comes off of the tone of its own tracks. One doesn’t need Rick Rubin’s ears to hear what isn’t there. The fade out endings leave irresolution. The musicianship lacks commitment.
Mosca en la casa.
The songs themselves are good. The best song “Anos Luz” is compromised by a needless fuzz bass that cancels certain frequencies of Shakira’s voice. “Lo Hecho Esta Hecho” sums up the whole project.
Both songs are also on the album in English versions, and both are not exact translations but different songs or continuations with the same melodies. This is typical of Shakira’s bilingual catalogue.
Shakira is a world star except in the USA, and maybe Canada too. The She Wolf Album is her third try at attracting American listeners and it humbly submits regressions back behind Laundry Service, her first try. “Hips Don’t Lie” was a hit in America in spite of the deejay mockery. It came from Oral Fixation v2, the English half of the double album which starts out with a song that calls out God and concludes with a satirical anthem about pop culture and East Timor—the CD with the cover of her nearly naked stance like a mirror of Michelangelo’s David holding an apple like Eve in Eden, her nakedness barely obscured by a tree where an infant suspended by vines reaches down to her from an upper branch—the album cover Letterman displayed to promote her performance on the show when it was new and he said, “We could lose our liquor license.” Shakira the belly dancing stripper. Salacious. Sleazy. Or is it in your face right back at ya feminism? Latin America is an interesting place to grow up female. How does Shakira perceive the American music audience?
Reminds me of the song “Paper Doll” by PM Dawn.
The She Wolf album goes a techno direction that Fijacion Oral ventured. There’s nothing wrong with techno music—Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” is all techno, and it’s a rock classic. She Wolf has a cold feel to it like the difference audiophiles used to say about CDs compared to vinyl. Shakira sounds better with a real band. Synthetic techno glam rock isn’t her kindest sounding medium. I miss those Egyptian surfer guitars slanging power chords so sharp they slice your ears.
Who invited Lil Wayne to mess up “Give It Up To Me”? Shakira performed this haunting rhythm chant on Letterman without the rap and it sounded gorgeous. If I could get the song without Lil Wayne I’d buy it all over again.
Elsewhere on this website Tom Moon says hip hop rap is gone stale and lost its innovative eminence. If Shakira wants respect in the USA she can stop marketing herself to the glam charts. She should be adult contemporary, not Top 40. Her English song vocabulary could be too enriched and mature to limit itself to be wasted only on competing with the kids on the pop charts.
I’ve never heard Shakira on the radio.
“Mon Amour” an English song on She Wolf is a petulant adolescent curse upon a prodigal lover, and it rocks, but it’s a belated prequel to the classic rock “Don’t Bother” from Oral v2 five years ago. The vocal regression from then to now goes from the voice of a cool babe to psychobimbina. One hopes Shakira got the guy out of her system—probably the same guy, and the same guy as “Te Aviso, Te Anuncio” the tango rock from Laundry Service. This the Shakira who sang “Mejor te guardas todo eso a otra perra con ese hueso y nos decimos adios” in “La Tortura” the greatest single record ever made.
To catch on in the American market Shakira can’t naively keep coming around every five years acting as if it were her first album. She has always been consistently clear about her professional ambitions. She wants to be a poet, a rock star, and a singer with the vocal clout of Om Kolthum. If now she wants to be known as a dancer like Isadora Duncan or Josephine Baker, that’s okay. She danced in her American TV appearances on America’s Talent, Letterman and SNL, complex sensual yoga ballet choreographies set to song and drum from She Wolf. Shakira should never have to prove she is sexy and beautiful—that’s a given legend. Maybe she was awkward and clumsy as a kid. Dance performance is hard to convey from naked audio, however, and that’s where the She Wolf album settles for confinement.
The title song foretells liberation of suffocation under a power capable of letting “it” out, and that’s sad coming from Shakira who by the age of 33 with grammys and and a half dozen platinum worldwide hits and all that, one would think if anybody in the record business was boss of her own destiny it would be she.
Where I live the wolf is an untamable creature of the forest respected as noble mammal of the wilderness. The metaphor of a closeted wolf is an urban image too dissonant to take literally, even as a bad dream fairy tale or considering local basketball. Shakira could be talking about herself to herself, so she better set herself free at last and get herself off the endangered list.
“Anything you want, you can make it yours, anything you want in the world ...” from “Give It Up To Me.” Okay, Loba, give yourself permission.
“Loba”—the “She Wolf” song en espanol—tells the wolf story a little differently. No surprise it held number one on the Latin charts for several weeks.
Le lo lo le lo le.
Is it Epic records? The label of the Yardbirds, the Hollies, Poco, Michael Jackson and ’Til Tuesday?
“Men In This Town” could be a summer single of 2010 if Shakira has any friends at all in American radio. It’s a catchy rocker in plain English. She likes to sing about the funny stuff in the business. Can you believe she’s a naive small town girl?
I still trust Shakira with the future of rock and roll. How can one not trust the one who wrote “Illegal”?
In 1965 didn’t you trust Paul McCartney? Springsteen in 1975?
If Shakira wants to make a name in American music she can’t quit because the audience doesn’t speak Shakira. On a PBS saga about Latin influence in American music Emilio Estevez complimented her intelligence. My local paper rock critic told readers not to buy Shakira CDs for their kids last Christmas because her work is shallow—all image, no musical quality. (That about certifies collectors item status, no?) Last winter on Letterman she behaved with grace in an interview the host did not interrupt or condescend when she spoke of her foundation for displaced children of Colombia. This is not a recent hobby. She’s been recognized by the United Nations for humanitarianism. Her anthem of loyalty performed with the Roots on the Hope for Haiti telethon sparked a night of somber ballads. Listen to her song “Timor” from Oral v2—it’s techno I warn you. Yes, Shakira can sing in English.
She made a body of work from fusions and crossovers of styles and genres since she was a kid. Latin folk rock. Latina Lebanese rock. Latina Lebanese gaucha vaquera rock. Techno folk latin euro Leganese hip hop soul. Shakira’s next progression as a world music fusionista might consider coming into the American market through country music radio.
Shy to admit, some of the best influences of rock and roll—especially chick rock—has come through country music. Shakira should play next year at South By Southwest. Rock gaucha vaquera hip hop Lebanese Latina folk techno hip hop county. Small town girl all grown up in America.
Shakira should practice her guitar. She should practice English covering standards like “Bus Stop” by the Hollies, “Things We Said Today” by the Beatlles, “Reach Out” by the Four Tops, “Ties That Bind” or “Lucky Town” by Springsteen, “Anyone Who Had A Heart” by Dionne Warwick, or “Doo Wacka Doo” by Roger Miller. Sing a duet with Chris Isaak. Have a long conversation with Stevie Van Zandt and Gene Clark. Consult Tina Turner, Joni Mitchell, the Dixie Chicks.
Shakira endures in America despite derision from critics and lack of radio airplay. Her madness will engender future albums. She will re-enter the American market asylum when she sees fit. I’m sorry if I have to wait another five light years to listen to it.
#13 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 03/31/2010 1:14
correction to comment #12:
I meant to say Emilio Estefan, not Estevez. Emilio Estefan praised Shakira’s intelligence in the PBS documentary on Latin influences in American music. He produced her second and third albums.
#14 from Jose Moraleja, Puerto Rico - 04/09/2010 12:40
When Donde Estan Los Ladrones came out it was in every Latino home. Not just one copy, but several. I had one, my 2 sisters each had one, my mom had one and yes, even dad had one. This was the first and last time our entire family had something like musical taste in common. It was simply too good to share….......
This CD was the single “coolest” CD to hit the Latino pop rock scene ever. EVERYBODY in Latin America loved it and nobody was ashamed of it. Teenage boys paraded around holding their PINK COLORED SHAKIRA CD’s with pride.
Nobody made fun of you for it the was somebody would today if they see you, a guy, with a Beyonce CD…
The sad truth is SHAKIRA peaked with this album and she has lost her mind over it. Her work has been nothing but fluff since then. Her sucess with this album put her out of touch with her own talent. Yes some of her newer songs are good, but they dont make anybody smile or cry the way Donde Estan Los Ladrones did in the late 90’s.
Donde Estan Los Ladrones DEFINED and entire generation. It is because of this CD and ONLY because of this CD that I continue to buy every single CD Shakira has made since. Not because we like her new music, but because I desperately hold out for anything resembling the whimsical music contained in a pink colored CD that millions of people loved. and still do.
So, If you have ever wondered why that hip-shaking blonde that sings like a GOAT has been so succesful. That is why. Because once upon a time she made a rock album that rocked Latin America.
I doubt that ANYBODY who speaks Spanish as a first language and who was part of Shakira-mania would claim that Oral Fixation or any other of her albums was better.
#15 from Brian Wright, Seattle, WA - 04/09/2010 3:45
Hey Michael K, This is all too much for me, but you always were a bit over my head.
Viva le pink fox.
#16 from Katherine J. Werner, Saint Paul MN - 04/19/2010 11:21
Michael, You did not respond to my questions. Not surprising = you always were a dodger, a phony, a liar, a cheat. All words and no show. You are definitely not too much for me….
How’s your wife?
#17 from Michael K Denny, Minneapolis - 05/11/2010 10:38
“So what’s the point of wasting all my words
If it’s the same or even worse
Than reading poems to a Horse”
Poem to a Horse
Live & Off the Record
CD & DVD
#18 from Katherine J. Werner, Saint Paul MN - 05/13/2010 10:31
My point. You can’t even compose something of your own.
#19 from Michael K. Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 05/18/2010 9:09
Shakira’s words. Shakira’s page. The title of this website is not 1000 whining loathing rants. Begone. Your poison pen calumny is not welcome here. Bleach your conscience on your own face page. Go listen to some music—Jose’s Pink CD—and soothe your embittered soul.
#20 from Katherine J. Werner, Saint Paul MN - 05/18/2010 10:16
That was good, Michael! Most impressive, ‘cept you’re the last person qualified to give me advice, unless it’s to walk the dog, light the light. My soul was just fine until you poisoned it. I will no more be gone that you will be gone.
#21 from Mel Perling - 05/18/2010 10:34
Hey guys, let’s try to keep it civil on here! We’re going to have to start deleting comments with personal insults.
#22 from Michael K. Denny, Minneapolis, MN - 12/15/2010 8:29
Sale El Sol. Out comes the sun.
Shakira piensa rosada muy bien. She has revolved a complete orbit since Donde Estan Los Ladrones a dozen years ago, and we get a new pink CD.
She outlasted the thieves, poseurs, tremors, timors, tortures and torments, horses, prodigals, flies, machines, asphalt, and a suicide waiting. Sale El Sol completes an orbit and says let’s go around again.
It’s a great album. The most beautiful voice on the planet is clearly the gifted leader of this band, and the songs go off like fireworks of the soul, aurora borealis australis canciones. More underengineered than the first pink CD, this one could have been recorded at a club. Shakira’s collaborators, voices, drums, horns, piano, organ, guitars, glockenspiel, strings make a big sound without the big noise. The hard rock is so understated and elemental that even the power chords sound sharp at low volume. The dance songs make lullabyes if you play them low while putting kids to sleep. Loud the album sounds gorgeous. You don’t need to know Spanish to love this album, but you should embrace headphones for the full emotional effect. And there are no fadeout endings.
For Jose Moraleja (see his comment above please) nothing may ever surpass the impact Donde Estan Los Ladrones had on him, his family, and a world of listeners who found that album a dozen years ago and which is considered one of 1000 recordings to hear before you die. Jose Moraleja knows Shakira music in ways this anglo come lately can merely mortally dream. I didn’t really get the goat reference until I heard the phrase “foot for every shoe” on the live Rotterdam CD. For me, nothing in music may ever surpass the rush of hearing the first three cuts of Fijacion Oral for the first time. To each our own. It seems to me this page should be filled ten times this much with essays en espanol.
Sale El Sol is a solid album worthy of the pink of its predecessor. The folk rocker comes full ellipse. The songs are wry, sensuous, passionate, furious, sweet, cute and hilarious, musically tight, and so crazy to get into your head to hear over and over, the rhythms make your heart rumba, and Shakira’s voice calls out in a thousand notes the polysyllabic expressions of a human being alive alive oh. Ratata.
This album makes She Wolf sound like a better album in retrospect, a bridge album from a nocturnal lunar twilight into a sunny if shadowy broad daylight. A guitar refrain from “Lo Hecho Esta Hecho” leads into a song about an island. Shakira is mad. Loca como la loba. Y me gusta ya.
A zero millenium poet named Marcus Argentarius wrote in a poem of what love is not, “Beauty, though, any critic can admire.”
Thank you, Shakira, for your rare devotion. I’m addicted to you too, carina.