Shakira has been shedding her pain and anger over her relationship with Gerard Piqué for a little over a year now, changing her skin if you will, and this time she does so explicitly in the form of scales. A few weeks after Disney released the new live-action version of The Little Mermaid, the Colombian singer appears in a new video with the tail of a fish and the pinkish hair of the animated character. “You’re always busy with so much business; it will be fine, my love, a little bit of leisure,” she sings in her new song, Copa Vacía (or, Empty Cup), about a woman dissatisfied with a man who thinks more about money than who he has next to him. “I’m left wanting more and wanting to drink from an empty cup,” she adds in her new song, which focuses on the scarcity of desire and was produced in collaboration with Colombian urban music singer Manuel Turizo, who appears as a prince who has legs instead of a fish tail: the tragedy of a bipedal being facing a fantastical mermaid.
Unlike Disney’s The Little Mermaid, however, Shakira does not give her voice and songs to an octopus to gain legs to chase her prince: they live in different worlds. She is hot and he is cold, he does not breathe water and she does, so there is nothing to change. “You’re colder than January, I ask for heat and you give nothing but ice,” she says. “I’m not a mechanic but I try to fix it and it doesn’t work; reviving a heart that doesn’t react,” he replies. Irreconcilable differences. The mermaid is seen at times among ocean trash, an allusion to the plastic pollution in the sea and the crappiness of living in empty love.
Songs that sell romantic love are over in Shakira’s world: these are no longer the times of Day in January or Hay Amores, ballads from two decades ago. For more than a year Shakira has produced a string of songs in which she has said goodbye to cheesy verses and her relationship with Piqué: Te Felicito, in which she ironically tells her ex-partner that he was very good at cheating on her; Monotonía, in which she says the blame for the end of the relationship did not lie with either one of them; Music Sessions, Vol. 53, in which she adopts a more vindictive tone, and TQG, in which she literally tells Piqué that she is bigger than him (she is “nicer, tougher, more level”). The latter two songs are both among the most-listened to this year globally on Spotify.
During that time, Shakira has experimented with bachata, reggaeton and trap, and performed on collaborations with some of the most famous urban music singers, including Karol G and Rauw Alejandro. A month ago, she went for a simpler and sweeter piano solo with Acróstico, a song dedicated to her two children, in which she tells them not to worry about the plate that daddy broke: she will show them how to take care of the rest of the dishes.
Copa Vacía comes with fewer attacks directed at Piqué and his new partner, Clara Chía: Shakira recently told People magazine that her focus today is elsewhere. “I’m rebuilding the nest,” she said after leaving Barcelona with her two children and moving to Miami. Rumor has it that she may be dating Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton, but even if that is the case, the British driver is still far from appearing in a song. The only love Shakira is looking for is more elusive than mermaids: self-love.
“I don’t deny that I often question, as we all do, whether we are worthy of love,” Shakira told People. “There’s a little bit of everything. There are days when I feel strong. There are days when I feel I have lived through so many tough things that I can face anything. My whole life I’ve been scared of facing the things that I’ve had to face in the end, and I have survived them. I thought I couldn’t do it; however, the resilience of human beings, especially women, is inexhaustible.”
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