The Catalonia region’s rivalry with Spain’s central government is one of Europe’s oldest blood feuds—with money, nationalism and historic grudges all in play.
Now there’s a volatile new element: Shakira.
Just as Catalans are girding for a referendum late this year on breaking away from Spain, the mega-star has triggered a dustup in Spain and endured vicious Twitter attacks by recording a version of one song on her new, self-titled album in the Catalan language.
Spanish-language Twitter users, evidently taking her use of Catalan as a political endorsement, have referred to her variously as “an imbecile,” “retarded,” “subnormal” and an “ape.” Wrote one: “I already thought that Shakira was stupid but recording a song in Catalan has proven it.”
The Colombian star’s cover of the well-known Catalan pop song, “Boig Per Tu,” or “Crazy For You,” is available on the edition of the CD sold in Spain, as well as on iTunes.
Her interest in singing in Catalan actually seems personal rather than political. Shakira shares a mansion in the Catalan capital of Barcelona with her partner, Gerard Piqué, who plays for the storied FC Barcelona soccer club. In past interviews, she’s carefully avoided getting mixed up in Spain’s often treacherous politics. Moreover, Spanish nationalists can take heart that she sings a Spanish translation of the Catalan song, titled “Loca Por Ti,” on both the Spanish version of the CD and the one sold in the U.S.
Shakira’s representatives didn’t return requests for comment.
After the initial insults on social media came a wave of jokes about the challenges of making sense of pop lyrics in any language. “Lots of fuss for the new Shakira song in Catalan, as though we could even understand what she’s saying in the other ones,” one tweet read.
The controversy certainly isn’t hurting sales. Her album is at No. 2 on the iTunes albums charts.