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Pop Songs Deconstructed: She Wolf By Shakira

by Jonathan Goss
28 April 2012 11 Comments

I think we'll all agree that Shakira is a modern day poet, but what's the true meaning behind She Wolf? Be prepared, we're going in deep.


I thought the other day that I don’t write about popular culture and Justin Bieber enough, so I figured I’d give being ‘with it’ a go. The first stage of this is obviously applying a bit of criticism. I don’t know, but I reckon that most of what’s called modern culture these days’ needs a bit of GCSE standard deconstruction.

So, I thought I’d start with music, and to that end I’ve been enjoying Shakira’s song She Wolf, to the obvious horror of everybody else in the office. Why she chose Gerard Pique over me I have no idea, (see I’m TRYING at this gossip stuff). Apart from his Champions League, World Cup and European Cup medal we have had eerily similar careers.

Any way I thought that the lyrics needed decoding, in much the same way as a close reading of Cormac McCarthy reveals intricately layered meaning, so too does She Wolf have extraordinary depth. I have linked the lyrics down beneath this post for everyone to read and let resonate.

Right so here goes, verse one, here Shakira puts her identity out there. She gives the listener an early indication that all is not as it seems. The first bit that let’s you in on this is the lyric:

‘There’s a she wolf in disguise’

I’ve seen Shakira and let me tell you, her disguise is pretty bloody brilliant.

The second verse very much confirms this:

‘Darling it is no joke, this is lycanthropy’.

Now I don’t know how many songs have the word lycanthropy included in them. My suspicion is not nearly enough. Lycanthropy, for those who don’t know, is the transformation of a human into a wolf. It is also a reference to a mental illness, where the sufferer believes that they are turning into a wolf. You see it works in two separate ways! It is very much up to the listener to decide whether Shakira actually is turning into a wolf or whether she merely believes to be. Personally I’m all about the latter.

I don’t know how many songs have the word lycanthropy included in them. My suspicion is not nearly enough.

The third verse highlights all the usual problems typically voiced in a traditional pop song. Shakira feels that she is devoting herself to her partner but this devotion is not being reciprocated. I imagine she probably feels that it is an 80:20 split rather than the preferred relationship rate of 50:50. This verse also features my favourite line in the whole song, and possibly the universe:

‘I’m starting to feel just a little abused, like a coffee machine in an office’.

Now I don’t know where you work, but there is a fairly strong chance that you will have seen or used a coffee machine. The ones that promise a plethora of options but in reality just deliver some warm dish water with a slight hint of chocolate. Whatever you option you choose. Anyway back to it, these machines tend to get used. A LOT. Especially when the office is hung-over or sleepy. So Shakira is comparing her plight to said coffee machine, always being used but never getting anything back. Like I said, this is my favourite line in the whole song, only Shakira could make something so prosaic carry such poetic weight. Brilliant.

The next bit is the chorus. It’s quite good.

The next verse features some stuff about the moon, again very strong.

There is a bit more in the next verse about Shakira becoming a hunter and looking at her prey. She then goes on to state that she is after a boy and wants a very good time. She also states that she has the

‘fire department hotline in case I get in trouble later’.

Slightly baffled by this line to be completely honest, I mean I am not sure why she’s gone with the fire department, rather than the police. Or the kind of police/security that would feature in one of those teenager vampire things that are all the rage. Having thought about this some more it might be that the fire hose would stop her going crazy. I remember when we used to turn the hose on my dog and it would love it. Trying to drink from it and run away from it at the same time. I digress.

Anyway she’s gone with the fire department so we’ll stick with it. Then there is a bit more chorus.

Then a bit more.

Then a bit more.

Then it finishes.

There you have it. A modern classic, you’ve got medical conditions, office equipment and emergency services in one beautiful piece of song writing. John and Paul never managed to fit quite such a mix of topics. Look and learn..

The lyrics are here:

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

Cuse 8:03 am, 28-Apr-2012

Gosh, this was a complete waste of time wasn't it?

fire 10:18 pm, 28-Apr-2012

fire department rather than police?? well incase things get too heated and the fire needs to be put out.. i think?

Paul 6:19 am, 29-Apr-2012

"Starting to feel just a little abused like a coffee machine in an office"...that's my favorite quote too!! People usually thinks that music videos with a lot of sexual images has trashy songs with stupid lyrics. Actually the lyrics of She Wolf are really good. Also, the lyrics of her spanish songs are far better than the ones in english. Seriously, by far.

marco 6:40 pm, 29-Apr-2012

No, cuse, it was not a waste of time. Shakira can actually wright and sing with any range of voice believe it or not. There for it's not of waste of time to read about one of the few real pop artists there are today.

Clint 3:47 pm, 30-Apr-2012

My guess for the "bomberos"(firemen) lyric is that it rhymes with "solteros". The song flows very well in Spanish, so it was likely written in Spanish before being translated, rather awkwardly at times in my opinion, to English.

David L 10:09 pm, 30-Apr-2012

Right, everyone stop it right now. This is getting silly.

jojo 3:50 am, 1-May-2012

oh man i love the lyric of this song....and specially the starting to feel just a little abused like a coffee machine in an office.... SERIOUSLY who else can come up with those lyrics?....haha only the girl that used to sing about her boobs being confused by mountains...she is brilliant. I can count in one hand talented pop stars who are genius lyirically and musically, cuz really who else can ahuuuu in a song? damn only her...haha

Jonathan Goss 9:41 am, 1-May-2012

I'm glad everyone agrees that Shakira is a fantastic songstress. I've just listened to the song in Spanish. Amazing.

Oh, Reginald! 1:13 pm, 1-May-2012

Brilliant deconstruction. looking forward to more

Shem 2:38 am, 2-May-2012

No Clint, the song was written in English first. Shakira mentioned that herself in a number of interviews. The song is a fine example of Shakira's English poetic abilities, and it has nothing to do with the "awkwardness" of her status as a non-native English speaker.

Clint 6:09 am, 3-May-2012

No Shem, the lyrics are at times awkward in English, poetic license notwithstanding. "To locate a man, I got on me a special radar", for instance, is odd (and not in a beautifully poetic way). Regardless of whether the lyric was written down in English first, it clearly demonstrates interference from another language and/or a syntactic error of the aesthetically unpleasing variety. That being said, I like Shakira and think it's a great song... Why else would I read a lengthy "deconstruction" and participate in a thread about it?

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