The Kansas City Chiefs won the US Super Bowl earlier today — but if you pay any heed to Twitter, the most important achievement happened at half-time.
- Shakira and Jennifer Lopez headlined the Super Bowl halftime show, performing a medley of their hits
- The performance in Miami was a celebration of Latino and Arabic culture and may reflect the NFL’s goal to attract a more diverse fanbase
- Shakira stole the show with what appeared to be a traditional Arabic zaghrouta, a nod to her heritage
Latina singers Jennifer Lopez and Shakira delivered hip-shaking choreography and a medley of infectious hits at the event’s half-time show, which is arguably just as iconic as the football game itself.
Twitter lit up in support of the performers, with more people tweeting about Shakira than using the hashtag #SuperBowl.
And a particular vocal cry Shakira unleashed during the opening set instantly became a meme — and brought a traditional Arabic celebration to millions.
From Whenever, Wherever to Jenny from the Block
The Miami performance signalled its Latin American influences from the onset, when Shakira greeted the stadium audience in Spanish with “Hola, Miami.”
Dressed in a sequined, ruby-red outfit with matching boots, Shakira led her team of dancers through snippets of hits such as Whenever, Wherever and Hips Don’t Lie before giving way to J-Lo.
Lopez made her entrance in black leather and studs on a stage set resembling the top of the Empire State Building, as Jenny from the Block proudly announced she was from the Bronx, New York.
Her 11-year-old daughter Emme later joined her on stage for a rendition of Let’s Get Loud, featuring a girls’ choir.
Shakira’s zaghrouta wins the performance
But the show’s most meme-able moment came when Shakira looked directly into the camera and trilled her tongue, while uttering a joyful cry.
Some Twitter users didn’t know what to make of the seemingly incongruous ululation and jokes quickly emerged.
@sarcastic_asset tweet: If I ain’t seen anything ever that’s more meme-worthy, I give you Shakira tongue lol
@elfstrom_andrew tweet:shakira out there like
@ShaneSpeights tweet: Me trying to get the last peach out the fruit cup
@T_Lumpkin47ABC tweet: What my microwave sees while I’m waiting for my food:
But other viewers were joyful to see the singer’s reference to her Arabic heritage and explained her vocal cry was a traditional Arabic expression of happy emotions referred to as a zaghrouta.
@hoonable tweet: This is called zaghrouta. It is a way to express joy or happiness in Arab culture. Elements of it can also be found in other cultures even as far as music in the Balkans.
@denakhalafallah tweet: Does this mean Shakira normalized zaghrouta? Because the rest of us would like to trill a celebratory ululation in public without judgment.
@DanielGHajjar tweet: You really have to understand how huge Shakira’s performance was for the Middle Eastern community. She had belly dancing, a mijwiz and a derbeke, performed “Ojos Asi” which was one of the few Shakira songs to have Arabic in it, did a Zaghrouta, all love on the biggest stage
@Luluramadan tweet: Chiming in because I know everyone will be making jokes about this for days — this is a popular Arab tradition, called zaghrouta, used to express joy at celebrations. In the melting pot that is Miami, you could not have picked a better Super Bowl act and this was a lovely touch.
Shakira’s father was born in New York City to Lebanese parents, and the name Shakira is Arabic for ‘grateful’ or ‘full of grace’.
Performance represents changed demographics of Super Bowl
The 12-minute half-time show, along with commercials, has become a popular feature of the Super Bowl spectacle on par with the game itself, which draws some 100 million television viewers in the United States.
The backgrounds of the two headliners fit two of the demographics the National Football League is trying to attract to expand its fan base: women and Latinos.
J-Lo, 50, is the Bronx-born daughter of Puerto Rican parents who rose from humble roots to become an international star of Hollywood movies and popular music with her own fashion and fragrance lines.
Shakira, 43, who is from Barranquilla, Colombia, had earlier said she sympathized with Latinos in the United States, where anti-immigration rhetoric has become more open in recent years.
“Latinos are going through a difficult time in the US right now, and I think it’s very important for us to convey a message of unity and also to show what a relevant force the Latin community is in this country,” she said.
This year’s Super Bowl broke ground for women in high places, including in the ownership of both teams (Denise York of the San Francisco 49ers and Norma Hunt of the Chiefs), and on the sidelines, where San Francisco’s offensive assistant Katie Sowers became the first woman to coach in a Super Bowl.