By The Washington Post · Sarah L. Kaufman · FEATURES, ENTERTAINMENT
Shakira, marking her 43rd birthday Sunday, showed off her multifaceted musicianship with impressive turns on the guitar and drums, while belting a medley of her hits - "Whenever, Wherever" and "Hips Don't Lie" among them - with seemingly effortless vocal power. As if that wasn't enough of a feat, she sang while in constant, furious motion: whipping her long blond mane, pounding the stage in a jubilant mix of salsa steps and the wide-legged stomping and squatting of African dance, along with the winding and undulating pelvic gyrations of the Colombian-born singer's Middle Eastern patrimony. She also incorporated the rope dance from her Oral Fixation tour, coiling a length of cord around her wrists and stretching it overhead, adding a frisson of bondage play and the shifts in power that implies, while also using the rope's lines to emphasize her graceful hands and arms and the sinuous, snakelike movements of her body.
J-Lo, looking like a CrossFit enthusiast on her way to the Met Gala in a sheer bodysuit splashed with sequins, shinnied up a stripper pole and found just the right friction coefficient to balance herself in a horizontal move, inspired by her starring role in the 2019 film about exotic dancers, "Hustlers." Those impressive abdominals came into play later as the 50-year-old pop star flipped upside down and cartwheeled, with the help of her backup dancers, landing neatly to scoot into place next to Shakira without missing a beat. Cue the hip-grinding finale.
The dancing ended too soon. It was almost too much to take in at such a pace, the blinding lights, the sparkling costumes with glitter and fringe flashing everywhere, and the extreme-strength moves and displays of stamina. Reggaeton artists Bad Bunny, from Puerto Rico, and J Balvin, from Colombia, joined the headliners for duets - Shakira and Bad Bunny in "Chantaje" and J-Lo and J Balvin in "Mi Gente" and "Love Don't Cost a Thing." The men grounded the 12-minute show with a smoother, heavier feel, but they didn't distract from the storm of female energy that powered this halftime performance and gave it a surprising political sharpness.
The two women, both mothers of young children, had a pointed message to share. It was squarely aimed at treatment of Latinos at the U.S.-Mexico border and in Puerto Rico, which has been shattered by several natural disasters and delays in aid. An overhead camera slowly revealed children posed in individual white orbs, a stylized but unmistakable motif of children separated from their parents and held captive at the border. The stage was rimmed in lights that formed the circular gender sign for female. Shakira smashed the drums and Lopez's young daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz, began singing "Let's Get Loud," leading a children's choir. Segueing to her next message, Lopez appeared draped in a giant feathered Puerto Rican flag that she unfurled triumphantly as Muñiz sang a few lines from "Born in the U.S.A." while her mother hollered, "Let's get loud!" It was a moving tribute to the Puerto Rican family origins of mother and daughter, and a reminder of the citizenship of the island's people.
A Twitter crossfire quickly erupted, with heavy favoritism of Shakira's dance skills and rear-end wiggling over J-Lo's. But this misses the point. Shakira had opened the show with a greeting to the Miami audience in Spanish; she closed it in Spanish - a meaningful circularity in a nation torn over immigration. Lopez echoed her in English, capping a performance that was unabashedly sexy, athletic and beautiful, and powerful in ways that went beyond the physical.
At this halftime show, the hips didn't lie. And neither did the women in control of them, and their message.