Cathy and Wyclef

And I’m on tonight
You know my hips don’t lie
And I’m starting to feel it’s right
All the attraction, the tension
Don’t you see baby, this is perfection

This isn’t about words! This is about Shakira’s body sending a message – and the body cannot lie. This is a time for breathless, passionate inarticulacy. Read the messages of her body and respond to them… Right?

Yep, Shakira’s hips are brilliant at sending out that primal message. She’s just backing it up with words to be on the safe side. Look at my hips. Are you getting the memo? Hell-o! Are you listening?

This is something I see over and over again in Shakira’s work. She enjoys playing with ideas of silence, inarticulacy, miscommunication. She enjoys playing the woman rendered submissive by the man’s superior verbal ability. But then she can’t quite bring herself to really shut up.

I think it’s quite a common fantasy among women who are attracted to men: meeting a man who is more articulate than you are, maybe even better at talking about sex and romance than you are.

Don’t believe me? Pick up a Louise Bagshawe book, or a Mills & Boon. (I did it so you don’t have to. OK, that’s a lie. I do it because I like it.) They never, ever feature a man in the hero role who’s inherently crap at communicating. Sure, the heroine’s beauty might leave him temporarily speechless. Sure, he might hide his lust under a steely facade because they have to do some kind of super-important business deal together. But he is never just a bit rubbish at talking. Never fails to parry her verbal jabs with some zingers of his own.  In a serious conversation about where the relationship is going, he won’t repeatedly fall back on “Um, I don’t know.”

It’s a fantasy because these super-articulate guys are rare. Not because men are inherently bad at talking, but because they’re trained by our culture to be bad at talking. The woman who plays the flustered, inarticulate social submissive usually ends up doing a lot of highly skilled behind-the-scenes work to keep it up. The sexual equivalent would be the sub barking orders at the dom and telling him off for tying the knots all wrong. (And I am certain that happens all the time too. “Oh, Mr Grey, you’re too strong for me! I’m just a simple virgin who – FOR GOD’S SAKE, HAVE YOU LOST THE LUBE AGAIN? WELL, WHERE DID YOU LEAVE IT LAST TIME? IT CAN’T HAVE JUST VANISHED!”)

Back to Shakira. She’s playing the silent dancer whose body does the talking. But this song is, of course, a duet with Wyclef Jean. He’s been cast in the role of the super-articulate man who overwhelms her with his verbal skills. Problem is, his actual reaction to her is hilariously inadequate.

And when you walk up on the dance floor
Nobody cannot ignore the way you move your body, girl
And everything so unexpected – the way you right and left it
So you can keep on shaking it

It’s hardly Lord Byron, is it? But the bit that makes me cringe all the way from my head to my toes is the Year 9 Spanish:

I never really knew that she could dance like this
She makes a man wants to speak Spanish
Como se llama (si), bonita (si), mi casa (si, Shakira Shakira), su casa
Shakira, Shakira

Ouch. Even if you don’t know that these words are directed at a native Spanish speaker, it’s still cringe-o-rama. I can only hope he’s having a laugh too. But Shakira gamely responds as if he’s really come out with some amazing piece of verbal seduction:

Oh baby when you talk like that
You make a woman go mad
So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body

Later on in the song, Wyclef Jean does a bit of rapping, but in true girlfriend-disappointing style, it’s nothing to do with her at all. It’s all about him and his origin myth of being a refugee from Haiti. I used to wonder if Shakira was disappointed that her pal Wyclef had failed so badly. But now I think maybe she was just laughing at him all along.

My favourite piece of perfectly-honed fake inarticulacy and submission comes with these lines:

Oh boy, I can see your body moving
Half animal, half man
I don’t, don’t really know what I’m doing
But you seem to have a plan
My will and self restraint
Have come to fail now, fail now
See, I am doing what I can, but I can’t so you know
That’s a bit too hard to explain

If you actually watch the part of the Hips Don’t Lie video where she’s singing these words, you’ll see she knows exactly what she’s doing. Whenever I watch it, I don’t know whether to laugh out loud or melt into a puddle of lust.

Explore posts in the same categories: singing, speechlessness, visual language


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