It must be pleasant to have an omelette for breakfast with orange juice while your album – your art, your multimillion-dollar business – runs wild on the internet, the numbers skyrocketing.
The global star of the reggaeton movement receives us in her hotel room as she eats eggs and potatoes, washing it down with freshly-squeezed juice.
“The tortilla was delicious,” says Carolina Giraldo Navarro (Medellín, 32 years old) – otherwise known as “Karol G” or “La Bichota.”
She hosted EL PAÍS on Tuesday, February 28. The 32-year-old Medellin-born singer has just released her fourth album: Mañana será bonito (“Tomorrow Will Be Beautiful”). A week after her interview with this newspaper, the songs from the collection would go to the top of the Billboard charts in the United States. She is the first woman singing in Spanish to go to number one.
With the support of her intuitive producer Ovy On The Drums (Daniel Oviedo), she has ensured that Latin urban music – or reggaeton – rules the pop world.
The album is made up of 17 songs where she shines solo or with feats. Among them with her idolized Shakira (post-Piqué), with whom she joined heartbreaks -Shakira post-Piqué; Karol G after her relationship with Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA- to produce the liquid gold that is the song TQG (te quedó grande) -”I was too much for you”-, another record breaker.
Tomorrow will be beautiful got its title because, as the Colombia artist says, yesterday was really ugly. It’s hard to imagine that, as we observe the jovial and intelligent winner, who wears Dolce & Gabbana boots, a hip denim outfit and her flamboyant hair dyed the color of “resurrection red.”
The album draws on her healing process, hopping from the rabid melancholy of a breakup to her vitalistic self-improvement. It is rampant and feverish, as befits the voluptuous boss of the perreo world. However, it also has the low tones and bitter verses of the hard-working and conscientious young woman, who supports vulnerable sisters through her charitable foundation.
Karol G is the neighborhood girl, tattooed with female power, with a heart surrounded by barbed wire. Her image contains both pleasure and anxiety: she is both a strong and vulnerable person. Her pleasure-seeking overlaps with discipline and a cerebral nature.
Just 24 hours before her interview, she arrived in Madrid from Miami via private jet. Upon arriving, she had a snack of chocolate with churros in a cafe, while her fans waited outside the door.
“Due to the nerves [caused by] the interview,” she was biting her nails. She shows them to us, with the enamel chipped. “See, and I always have a super cute manicure…”
Q. How are you?
A. Tired, I didn’t sleep at all.
Q. Do you mean that you actually didn’t sleep, or that you slept badly?
A. No, when I say I didn’t sleep, I mean that I really didn’t sleep. I don’t sleep much – my brain is like a motor that I can’t turn off. I’d love to know how, but I can’t.
Even when I manage to fall asleep, ideas wake me up. This has started happening to me in recent years. With all the things I’ve seen – all the things I’ve been able to learn and achieve – my mind seems to fly more. I feel like my head is always flying and thinking about the craziest things.
Q. Your album comes out of a period of darkness, at the end of a relationship.
A. The breakup made me realize that, inside, I was completely unstable – my level of dependency [was high]. When the relationship ended, I felt that I couldn’t do anything anymore and I spent a lot of time devaluing myself. I suddenly believed that I didn’t deserve all the things that were happening in my career.
Q. Girl power fell apart.
A. Totally. It was horrible. My previous album – KG0516 – was incredibly successful at the time, but I didn’t feel like celebrating. I no longer liked what I did – I didn’t like what I saw.
I was vulnerable and people’s cyber-bullying got tougher. It all affected me too much. I got to a point where I didn’t want anything. Love can make you the happiest person in the world… but heartbreak can seriously destroy your life. If you don’t have enough internal strength, falling out of love can confuse you to such an extent that your career, personality, and self-esteem crumble. That happened to me. That’s why it means everything to me that other people can heal with my songs.
Q. And now you’re ok.
A. I’m happy.
Q. In love?
A. I’m having a special moment.
Q. Let’s talk about the lyrics in this album. In the song While I heal my heart (Mientras me curo del cora), you sing: “I don’t even miss Ovy in the instrumentals.” How important is the music created by your producer, Ovy On The Drums?
A. Essential. He knows me very well – he even knows my family. For four years, he lived in my house in Medellin. We built the first recording studio together, laying the bricks by hand.
Q. In the song In case we get back together (X si volvemos – featuring Romeo Santos) you sing that “no one trustworthy should be denied a farewell f**k.” Anything to add to that?
A. Sometimes you don’t get along with a person and you’re no longer with them, but you think: “Just this once…”
Q. “You bring the bed and I’ll bring the krippy.”
A. Krippy! It’s a kind of marijuana.
Q. In But you (Pero tú – featuring Quevedo) we hear the lyrics, “you have me wrapped in the booty.” What do you mean by that?
A. The bum. You have a big bum and you have me hooked to it.
Q. In the song Besties, you sing that you go to the club with your friends “with diamonds in the gistro.”
A. (Laughing) Gistro is slang for “thong.” What it means is that we think so much about the details [when we go out] that we even have “diamonds in the registry.”
Q. What does bellaquear mean in your songs?
A. To flirt.
Q. In Gucci the handkerchiefs (Gucci los paños), you said that it was expensive to cry when the “handkerchiefs are Gucci.” Does a Gucci-branded handkerchief get spoiled with tears?
A. You’d be surprised at how a lot of expensive branded clothing is of really bad quality!
Q. So, for heartbreak, you don’t need to buy Gucci handkerchiefs.
A. No, for a heartbreak, toilet paper will suffice.
Q. When you started your career, did you think that, to be a star, you’d have to sing in English?
A. Yes, I thought about that at some point, of course. The biggest reference we had was Shakira… she always did her songs with Spanish and English versions. I took a little while learning English, but when I learned it, I realized that I no longer needed to sing in English for my music to work.
Q. That’s good, no?
A. Yes, truly.
Q. In Ferrari Eyes (Ojos Ferrari – featuring Justin Quiles and Angel Dior) you sing, “and drink and drink and drink… and screw and screw and screw… and light-up, light-up, light-up... and f**k and f**k and f**k… and drink and drink and drink.” Anything to add?
A. Yes, I get asked a lot about that song. You know, in the process of breaking up, you think that, by freeing yourself, you’ll feel better. “I want to drink, I want to drink, let anybody come cause I’m ready”. But later on, you realize that this wasn’t the way either. But at least you had a good time at the party.
Q. What is the Karol G movement?
A. How do I explain that… it’s about an empowered woman who works, who fends for herself, who is strong in difficult situations. I swear that this is somehow reflected in my concerts, in the messages that people write to me…
Q. Do you get bored when you’re asked about feminism?
A. No. What bores me is being asked what it’s like to be a woman in an environment so dominated by men… because it’s not so dominated by men anymore. But I do want to continue talking about feminism in general, because it’s something important and still in development.
Q. Shakira has only done songs in collaboration with three women: Beyoncé in 2006, Rihanna in 2014… and Karol G in 2023. How do you feel about that?
A. What a fright! I still don’t believe it. I wondered for a long time if I would be as talented as this person or that person… I know that there are people who sing better than me, who dance better than me, who are better performers than me… but I have a lot of discipline, I’ve disciplined my talent. I’ve worked very hard to achieve the things that I’ve achieved. It’s hard for me to know that this is reality, but I enjoy it, because I know how much it has cost me.
Q. I’ve read that you love NASA and space stuff. If you weren’t a music star, would you have wanted to be an astronaut?
Q. No. I’m obsessed with it, but I wouldn’t have wanted to be an astronaut, I would have wanted to be a professional motocross racer. I’ve loved [racing] ever since I was a kid.
Q. To go back to Shakira… did you know that, in 1999, she told Gabriel García Márquez that she was more scared of marriage than death?
A. How incredible that she was interviewed by García Márquez! I mean… she’s legendary. And I think that I’m also more afraid of marriage than of death.
Q. What was your childhood like in Medellín?
A. It was a dream childhood, a childhood that no longer exists. I’m from the time when we still played at making swamp fritters.
Q. Swamp fritters?
A. (Laughs). We made arepas out of mud. We used to play in the street… I literally didn’t know what a cellphone was until I was 16-years-old. My family was huge. It was a special childhood.
Q. Despite the socio-political context.
A. Two of my father’s brothers were killed because of the [cartels’] curfews in place in Medellin. After six in the evening, no one could go out, because they [the drug traffickers] were trying to put pressure on the government to negotiate. The way to put pressure was by threatening the entire society – whoever was on the street after a certain hour was killed. Just like that. They had no mercy because they were at war with the government.
Q. You’ve often thought about ending your singing career.
A. I’ve been making music since 2006. In 2012 was the first time I said I didn’t want to sing anymore, because I was tired of being told that, as a woman, I couldn’t, or encountering any of the indecent proposals from producers and engineers...
Q. Did that happen many times?
A. Yes, it happened a lot. I felt that [those men] were making me lose love for what I liked – which was making music and songs – and if I had to stop respecting myself to get to something, I wouldn’t do it.
But then my dad became my manager. He was very committed. And then, whenever somebody came around with an indecent proposition, I felt super protected with him by my side. It was very important to me.
Q. I recently saw that the news that, in Medellin, a woman – Daniela Rivera – committed suicide by jumping in front of one of the Metro trains with her daughter, who survived. Supposedly, she was escaping an abusive relationship.
A. Machismo is something universal… it seems to have no end. It’s something that we [have to] work on at the foundation. You can’t imagine the stories of girls who no longer want to live.
Q. Your most recent album is titled Tomorrow will be beautiful. What would you say to a fan who listens to your music and knows that tomorrow won’t be beautiful for her?
A. In our culture, we grow up with the idea that we’re not capable or strong enough to achieve things. We distance ourselves from painful situations, when they’re the most evolutionary in the growth process of a person. I can tell you that the last two years of my life – after the pain I have felt – have been the clearest, the happiest.
Q. Maybe she’ll say, “Fine, but I’m not Karol G. She was screwed up and came out of it… but I’m not Karol G.”
A. No, actually, the one who was screwed up was Carolina. Karol G was very good, because her career has gone well. But Carolina learned the greatest things from darkness. Do you know what I mean? When we get to that point, either we learn and leave, or we stay stuck.
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