The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 10)

Time as always to hop aboard our pop Tardis back to the songs and stars of the UK charts two whole decades ago, with The Story of Pop: 2002. This week: the UK debut of Colombia’s biggest export after coffee…

  • Artist: Shakira
  • Song: Whenever, Wherever
  • Released: 25/02/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Shakira / Tim Mitchell / Gloria Estefan
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #2
  • Weeks on Chart: 22

I hope people will be in agreement with me here, but in all my years of avid pop loving and chart watching, there are some songs that you hear for the first time and you just know that they will be a hit.

Planning ahead for this series of blogs a few months ago, and part of the reason why I’ve chosen to revisit 2002 again, is that I got excited knowing there was several such records I’d get to write about that fit that bill, and this week’s is no exception.

Born Shakira Isabel Mabarek Ripoll, in Barranquilla, Colombia, but known mononymly as Shakira, to a Lebanese father and Colombian mother, she wrote her first poem called “The Crystal Rose” when she was only four years old. And she also had an early love of music, but despite singing with classmates at school, she was kicked out the school choir by the nuns who said her voice was too strong and that she sounded like a goat.

Eventually releasing her first Spanish language album when she was aged 13, in 1990, over the decade that followed she released another three albums – two of which went multi platinum – and won both a Grammy and two Latin Grammys. Having conquered the Latin music market, come 2001, the next logical step was to then crossover into English speaking territories.

With the help of no less a star than Gloria Estefan, she started work on her fifth album. Laundry Service was a year’s labour of love, and after signing to a worldwide deal with Epic Records whilst being managed by Tommy Mottola, Shakira was finally unveiled to the wider world. And to say her international debut was an instant smash hit is an understatement.

Titled as “Suerte” in her mother tongue (meaning “Luck”), “Whenever, Wherever” was to Shakira what “…Baby One More Time” was to Britney Spears; a completely left-of-centre redefining pop song, combining an infectious Latin beat with panpipes and yodelling (yes, really) and an instantly catchy melody about the joy of being fortunate to find the perfect partner: “Whenever, wherever, we’re meant to be together / I’ll be there and you’ll be near / And that’s the deal my dear”.

It also of course, showcased her unique style of songwriting that provided some soundbites that were legendary amongst pop fans at the time; not least of all the famous lyrics “Lucky that my lips don’t only mumble / To spill kisses like a fountain / Lucky that my breasts are small and humble / So you don’t confuse them with mountains”.

Combined with an eye-catching video of her belly dancing away through numerous natural landscapes, “Whenever Wherever” was one of the biggest successes of 2002. Over in the States, it was a huge hit on the Billboard charts, whilst here in the UK, it had healthy first week sales which, were it not for the Will-Gareth Pop Idol juggernaut sweeping all before it, would have easily seen it be a number one hit.

Still, it did peak at #2 and went onto spend 22 weeks on the official UK chart – ten of those inside the top 10 – and was the year’s seventh biggest selling single. The Laundry Service album eventually went onto sell over 7 million copies worldwide, with her follow-up singles “Underneath Your Clothes” (#3 in July) and “Objection (Tango)” (#17 in November) helping it to reach double platinum sales here.

And whilst she was to have even bigger success later on into her English language crossover career – most famously of all on the worldwide number one hit “Hips Don’t Lie” with Wyclef Jean in 2006 – “Whenever, Wherever” is undoubtedly the record that helped break Shakira as one of the biggest selling female artists of the 00s.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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