With the smooth perreo of ‘TQG,’ Shakira and Karol G go after their exes

The mourning is over. The fury is gone. But before moving on, we’ll leave one last message, a smooth summation. Thus two women come together to settle accounts with their celebrity exes: on Friday Colombians Karol G and Shakira released their widely promoted song “TQG.” The collaboration combines music with gossip and pop-feminist sisterhood. “TQG” stands for Te Quedé Grande, or “I was too big for you,” a phrase that Shakira repeated to Gerard Piqué in her Sessions #53 collaboration with Bizarrap, which became the most streamed song in the world last month.

This time, the lyrics don’t deal as explicitly with the relationship between the singer and the athlete. This time, two women are throwing punches: Karol G also goes after her ex, reggaeton star Anuel AA. The two singers reject their exes’ pleas for reconciliation. “Seeing you with the new one hurt me, but I’m ready for my own thing./ I forgot what we had. That’s what bothers you,” the lyrics insist. “Now you want to come back.” The women sing about infidelity and moving on. “Tell your new baby I don’t compete for men,” Shakira sings. Musically, the single is a smooth, lilting reggaeton, far from the genre’s harder rhythms. The two artists share their personal stories in a sensual, sophisticated perreo. Not even the genre’s most insistent haters will be able to resist this song.

“TQG” appears as one of the 17 songs on Karol G’s new album, Mañana Será Bonito, her fourth release since she began her career with the 2017 Unstoppable. In the interim, she has become the most popular reggaeton singer in the world. The two Colombian women have had a collaboration in the works for years. They’re separated by an age difference of 14 years, and Karol G —whose real name is Carolina Giraldo Navarro— grew up listening to Shakira’s music. Three years ago, G’s fans spread the rumor that the artist sent a song to Shakira for a possible duet, but the Loba singer didn’t respond. Neither of the two have confirmed the episode. As Karol G’s popularity skyrocketed, things changed.

But Karol G’s path hasn’t been easy in the male-dominated genre of reggaeton. The Colombian has spoken publicly about her first experiences in the music industry. At age 18, she landed a meeting with a top music executive, only for him to make sexual advances. She slammed the door behind her and decided to integrate feminism into her music. In October 2020, she released “Bichota,” a song that has turned into a movement. “Bichote” is the word used in Puerto Rico to refer to a drug kingpin. “I turned it around: bichota, but to define a sexy, brilliant and powerful woman,” the artist has explained. Since then, her fans have called themselves bichotas. About two years later, Rosalía released “Motomami,” coining a term with similar implications.

Last week, The New York Times published an extensive profile of the reggaeton singer. She explained that many of the lyrics of Mañana Será Bonito reflect the impact of her breakup with Anuel AA. “Personal things that I had inside me, I was just letting them go in my lyrics. People are going to know about a lot of my personal life with my songs,” she says in the interview. In addition to Shakira’s appearance, the album includes collaborations with Catalan rapper Bad Gyal and Jamaican dancehall artist Sean Paul.

“Gucci Los Paños,” a ranchera full of angry rebuke, is the album’s most interesting number. In the pop song “Tus Gafitas,” the lyrics leave bitterness behind: “I didn’t believe in love, but for you I believe again.” “Ojos Ferrari,” with Justin Quiles and Ángel Dior, is the most experimental piece, a mashup of African rhythm. The rest of the album moves to melodic reggaeton. It is primarily produced by Ovy On The Drums, the Colombian Daniel Echavarría Oviedo, with the participation of Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas on “Tus Gafitas.”

“TQG” marks the fourth piece in which Shakira airs out her breakup with Piqué, after “Te Felicito,” “Monotonía” and the Bizarrap session. She will soon release a related song with Colombian Manuel Turizo. With one more composition, Shakira will be able to assemble a conceptual album about Piqué. Not bad for a central defender.

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