Every Hot 100 Number-One Single: “Hips Don’t Lie” (2006) by Shakira ft. Wyclef Jean

There are a few different scopes of songs that I expect to embark upon while doing this Every Hot 100 Number-One Single challenge. There are the pre-rock ‘n’ roll era records, like “Maria Elena” and “Oh! What It Seemed to Be”. There are the early pop radio hits such as “(We’re Gonna) Rock Around the Clock” and “Mack the Knife”. There are the obvious classics in the vein of “Can’t Buy Me Love” and “Rhinestone Cowboy”. And there are the absolutely strange and perplexing chart toppers, of which “Babe” and “A Whole New World” are but mere examples. There are so many other breeds of number-one records that I have yet to mention and I’m excited for getting into the nitty gritty of every single one of them for various reasons. However, there is one category that I am arguably the most excited for revisiting: staples of my teenage years.

I started becoming aware of pop music around 1998-99, but it wasn’t until the early part of the following decade that pop radio became something I regularly consumed for entertainment. Once I approached my middle school and high school years, I opted more for contemporary mainstream and indie rock; however, the pop music of the time continued to buzz on around me. I definitely remember this particular song, Shakira and Wyclef Jean’s “Hips Don’t Lie”, being absolutely everywhere around the summer of my fifteenth year. And it’s not hard to see why: released to promote Shakira’s seventh album Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, the song became an immediate worldwide success upon its release. Besides topping the Hot 100 for two weeks, it also reached the top ten in at least fifty-five other countries, also making it to number-one in a good chunk of those. Not too bad for a song that would prove to be the Colombian performer’s first number-one song (Wyclef Jean himself reached the top spot as a featured artist on Santana and The Product G&B’s “Maria, Maria” in 2000).

Although it’s only a little over a decade old, “Hips Don’t Lie” has certainly cemented its way into the fabric of society. Makes sense considering that it’s sold over 4 million copies in the states alone, was declared by Billboard to be the #5 song of its respective year, and is among one of the most commercially successful singles of the 2000s! The first lines of its chorus (sung by Jean) should strum some strings of familiarity into practically anyone around my age: “I never really knew that she could dance like this / She makes a man want to speak Spanish / Como se llama, bonita / Mi casa, su casa”. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found out that this chorus is actually recycled from an earlier song from Jean, appropriately titled “Dance Like This”. This song was actually recorded for use in the soundtrack to Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (a fact I just find kind of funny), and it was merged with an unfinished song from Jean’s previous group Fugees to eventually form the worldwide phenomenon, “Hips Don’t Lie”.

But what about the song struck such an immediate chord in listeners upon its release? With surprise phenomena like these, it’s often enlightening to take a look at what other songs were in the top 10-20 while this song was making it’s way up the charts. In spring of 2006, for the most part, the radio was congested by a bunch of soft rock, a little harder edged mainstream rock, the last vestiges of the crunk craze, some sultry R&B, and especially a bunch of adult contemporary pop. Hell, just a few weeks prior, Daniel Powter’s piano “Bad Day” had just spent five straight weeks at the top spot (boy, am I gonna have fun covering that one). Thus, it’s not hard to see why the blazing trumpets that kick off the song – sampled from Puerto Rican performer Jerry Rivera’s 1992 song “Amores Como el Nuestro” – along with its salsa and worldbeat rhythms and catchy upbeat chorus would seem like such a breath of fresh air. The number-one singles for the rest of 2006 ended up being generally more optimistic and danceable than the first half of the year, and I don’t think that’s any mere coincidence.

And now this begs the question – how does this song hold up after eleven years? First of all, it’s hard think about this song being eleven years old without feeling remarkably old and contemplative about the swift passing of time and decay of media… but that’s beside the point. For the most part, it has aged pretty well. I won’t lie that there’s some awkward mixing going on here – I’m always surprised at how abrupt and jarring the very first second of the track sounds, almost as if they caught the musicians mid-intro and there should actually be a smoother transition that was left out for whatever reason. Also, it feels like Shakira’s vocals (mainly when she sings the chorus) are distractingly louder than anything else going on around her; this isn’t inherently a bad quality, but it gives the impression of her voice just sitting atop all the other music which, truthfully, is a bit more interesting.

For the most part, this is a terrific party song. The horns and conga drums really add a terrific atmosphere to the mix, although the voices of Jean and Shakira are a bit of a buzzkill from time to time. Nonetheless, it’s tropical and sensual in all the most appealing ways. Additionally, to me, the song wouldn’t be complete without the accompaniment of its music video (directed by Sophie Muller), which is remarkably colorful, demonstrates Shakira’s famous hip-shaking abilities, and just generally cranks up the party atmosphere of its track to high gear. It is this method of listening to the song that practically erases its flaws and transform it into something truly, genuinely blissful.

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