Revenge songs are not new in the music industry, and neither is Shakira. Music Session #53, Shakira’s newest collaboration with BZRP, exists in the intersection between revenge songs and Shakira’s essence—and it is a song birthed from her long–term partner Pique's alleged infidelity.
But #53 is not groundbreaking, nor is it a novel genre of music for pop women. The very same week that #53 was released, Miley Cyrus also released her own self–love anthem, "Flowers," referencing her tumultuous relationship with ex–husband Liam Hemsworth. Taylor Swift’s "All Too Well" rehashes her past relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal—including some particularly pointed lyrics in the ten–minute version—and even this is one of many songs Miss Swift releases about failed relationships. Revenge songs have existed for as long as relationships have been failing (since, like, forever).
Have revenge songs always been well–received? Not necessarily. Female artists, especially those who have made more than one song of this nature (such as Swift) have often been ridiculed for writing and performing songs about past relationships. However, the recent resurgence of revenge anthems has allowed female artists to reclaim their voices after heartbreak, and to express their emotions to an audience that more often than not will relate.
#53 was not just born from Shakira and Pique’s separation, but from his rumored infidelity. Pique had allegedly been cheating on Shakira with Clara Chia, to the extent that Chia was practically living in their home while Shakira was away. Rumor has it that Shakira actually put two and two together through jam, and not a jam of the musical variety. After returning home from a tour, she noticed that her jar of strawberry jam, which Pique does not eat, was noticeably lighter than before.
Bizarrap, the collaborator on #53, is an Argentinian DJ and record producer. He’s known for the BZRP Music Sessions, where he collaborates with popular Latin–American artists such as Nicky Jam and Anuel AA to create tracks in a free–styling session. #52, a collaboration with Quevedo, currently sits as his most viewed video on Spotify with 491M views, and spent the summer at the top of Billboard Global charts. Shakira confesses in an interview that the collaboration with Bizarrap came at a suggestion from her son, Milan; not only did he suggest it to Shakira, but he also specifically asked her agent to put her on a track with Bizarrap (who had already contacted her about collaborating).
Combined with Bizarrap's production, Shakira’s lyricism in #53 leaves nothing to be desired, and although direct lyric translations try to convey the song's meaning, there is some nuance in Shakira's words that Google Translate just can't capture.
“Entendí que no es culpa mía que te critiquen / Yo solo hago música, perdón que te salpique.” The lyric itself is straightforward: “I understood that it’s not my fault that you’re criticized / I just make music, sorry for splashing you.” The art here lies in the use of the word "salpique"—not only does it rhyme with "critique" in Spanish, but it allows Shakira to sneak the very name "Pique" into her lyrics. Shakira doesn’t stop at name–dropping, and delves further into the details of her relationship with the footballer. She sings, “Me dejaste de vecina a la suegra / Con la prensa en la puerta y la deuda en Hacienda.” Not only was Shakira left living next door to her mother–in–law ("suegra") after their separation, but she was also under investigation for owing approximately 14 million euros to the Spanish Government, otherwise known as “La Hacienda.”
Shakira also points out the other half in his infidelity: “Tiene nombre de persona buena / Claramente no es como suena.” She (the mistress) might have the name of a good person, but clearly she isn’t what she sounds like. Although the lyric seems normal, the use of “clara–mente” (clearly) allows Shakira to sneak in Clara Chia’s name, saying that, although Pique’s new girlfriend sounds nice, she is in fact the opposite.
Even if Shakira didn’t mean to SPLASH on Pique, #53 certainly created waves in popular media, from TikTok dances to her recent performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Even large companies and brands got in on the trend, garnering tweet responses from Renault and Casio (two brands directly referenced in the song). The Spanish branches of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Ikea, and many more also joined in, sharing their own tweets or content related to the song.
So, what makes a revenge song great? Sneakily name–dropping the ex and his mistress? Elaborating comparisons between you and fancy brands? A great revenge song doesn’t necessarily bank on these details; rather, it evokes a universal feeling of being spited by someone you trusted and realizing your self-worth through it. Revenge songs don’t necessarily have to bash the mistress (although that makes the songs much more fun to scream in the car), but they do have to evoke the power and rush of finding your own voice in the midst of the heartbreak.
“Las mujeres ya no lloran, las mujeres facturan.” Women no longer drown themselves in tears and sadness—they turn it around and make something of it, whether it’s a profit or just a really good song.