Meaning Behind the Song: “Whenever, Wherever” by Shakira

Without the song “Whenever, Wherever,” Shakira might not be nearly as well known as she is today.

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The songwriter and performer, who made her recording debut with Sony Music Colombia at the age of 13, struggled in her early years as an artist with her first two albums, Magia in 1991 and Peligro in 1993. She gained popularity in Spanish-speaking countries after those but it was her English language 2001 LP, Laundry Service, that made her a star.

And the most notable single on that LP? “Whenever, Wherever.” We dive into the history of the song below.


Born on February 2, 1977, the Colombian singer has become one of the most essential Spanish- and English-language crossover pop stars. She has topped Billboard‘s Latin albums chart and was certified diamond. English-language albums like Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, She Wolf, and Shakira have all earned gold, platinum, or multi-platinum status. To date, Shakira has sold more than 80 million albums, which makes her one of the best-selling musical artists of all time. And as of 2018, according to Forbes, she is the top-selling female Latin artist ever.

Shakira has earned three Grammy Awards, 12 Latin Grammy Awards, four MTV Video Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, 39 Billboard Latin Music Awards, six Guinness World Records. She also performed during a Super Bowl Halftime performance and earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. There’s no getting around it—she is one of the most famous people in the world thanks to her warbling voice, swaying hips, and knack for the moment.

“Whenever, Wherever” Origins

From her fifth studio album, Laundry Service, which dropped in 2001, the song was released as the lead single from the LP.

While many pop stars have ghostwriters, Shakira wrote, composed, and produced the song, with help from Tim Mitchell and Gloria Estefan. The song itself comprises Latin styles, worldbeat, and Andean music, or musical styles that come from the Andes region of South America.

“Whenever, Wherever” Meaning

The Spanish version of the song is titled “Surete,” which translates directly to “Luck.”

Both versions are about how fortunate Shakira is—especially to find her current romantic partner. Truly, “Whenever, Wherever” is a love song, a song of devotion and adoration.

In the English version, she opens by singing:

Lucky you were born that far away so
We could both make fun of distance
Lucky that I love a foreign land for
The lucky fact of your existence

Lucky you were born that far away so
We could both make fun of distance
Lucky that I love a foreign land for
The lucky fact of your existence

Baby, I would climb the Andes solely
To count the freckles on your body
Never could imagine there were only
Ten million ways to love somebody

After its release, “Whenever, Wherever” became Shakira’s breakthrough hit. The song hit No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was her most successful song until her track, “Hips Don’t Lie,” which later peaked at No. 1 on the chart in 2006. In the end, the track was one of the most successful songs of 2002, selling more than 8.5 million copies.

Shakira Wanting More

In the late ’90s, as the bubble gum pop scene was big globally, with starlets like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and Jessica Simpson taking over, Shakira was in the mix, as well. She was achieving major success in the Spanish-speaking world, but she wanted more.

She released an MTV Unplugged album in 2000 and later discussed the challenge of writing in English. “Before assuming this big challenge of writing for the first time in English and making my first English album and presenting it to the world… of course I was feeling ready for it, a little bit scared… actually a lot scared,” she told “But I knew I could do it and my instincts always told me to go ahead and jump in the water.”

Not long after, she dropped “Whenever, Wherever” and became a bilingual global star.

Writing the Song

In the beginning, the lyrics for the track were written in Spanish by Shakira on her own. She later employed Cuban-born American singer Gloria Estefan for some final touches. The song was arranged and produced by Shakira and Tim Mitchell.

The song talks about fate and how that ephemeral force brought Shakira to her partner. The track opens with an intricate guitar, harkening to Pink Floyd’s “Shine On, You Crazy Diamond.” Then panpipes come in, bringing the song to a new spicy level. Shakira comes in, telling listeners how lucky she feels for her partner and how she’d climb to the tallest mountain just to see him up close.

Whenever, wherever / We’re meant to be together / I’ll be there and you’ll be near / And that’s the deal my dear, she sings on the chorus.

“Despite such bemusement-inducing lyrics as ‘lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains,’ it still manages to make you sit up and fancy the synthetic-fiber trousers off her,” music critic Lisa Oliver wrote of the song in Yahoo! Music.


After Shakira’s 2020 Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show, which she did with Jennifer Lopez, “Whenever, Wherever” enjoyed a refurangece, becoming the highest-selling song performed at the show and selling some 4,000 digital downloads. The following week, the song became the highest-charting track performed at the famed football halftime show since Billboard began tracking the data, peaking at No. 4.

That same week, the Spanish version of the song, “Suerte,” topped the Billboard Latin Digital Songs chart. Following her Super Bowl performance, Shakira’s song hit No. 1 on the iTunes singles chart.

The Music Video

Directed by Francis Lawrence, the music video for the popular track features Shakira surrounded by natural wonders. She starts submerged in the ocean. In it, her hair flows and bubbles appear from her nose and mouth. Then she jumps from the water and lands on rocks to see mountains, birds and clouds in the blue sky.

A belly dancer, Shakira shows off her dancing before crawling through a pool of mud. At the end of the video, she is on top of a snowy mountain peak, from which she jumps back into the water. The video was shot twice, once for each language.

Final Thoughts

To talk about Shakira is to talk about a global star. Songs like “Whenever, Wherever” and “Hips Don’t Lie” have propelled her to fame and fortune. The pop star has wowed fans now for several decades, performing duets with the likes of Lopez and Beyonce. But none of it may have happened hadn’t it been for her breakout hit, “Whenever, Wherever.”

Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

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