This was the first single and title track from Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira's third English studio album. She told The Daily Star July 11, 2009: "It's about a domestic girl who breaks free. I think we all have the wolf in us waiting to come out."
Shakira wrote and produced this electro-tinged track with John Hill, who was previously best known for producing Santigold's self-titled debut set.
This fierce piece of electro-pop was made available as a free download at the ABC Music Lounge for 24 hours on July 12 2009.
Shakira told Rolling Stone that the original idea for this song came to her "very mysteriously." She explained: "I was in the studio in a bad mood that day, then I got inspired and went to a corner and I wrote the lyrics and the melody in 10 minutes. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting."
Shakira also recorded a Spanish version of this song titled "Loba."
Jake Nava (Beyoncé, Britney Spears) directed the song's video, which according to Shakira's website features "the metamorphosis of a woman told through her unique dance techniques." The Colombian superstar explained the clip to Rolling Stone: "I am in a cage, but I am showing the desperation of being in it. I got a little carried away, hanging upside down."
Shakira explained to MTV News: "She-wolf is the woman at daytime and the animal at night. She is a woman who knows what she wants and she goes for it. She's in touch with her most subconscious desires and she satisfies them - and she defends her freedom and her liberties and she does it with her teeth and claws, like a wild animal."
The video features live wolves and Shakira had to keep her composure while they circled and sniffed at her heels. She told MTV News: "One of these wolves wasn't amicable at all. He was a little bit of an antisocial wolf. The other one was a little bit manageable. But it was all fine. I think I was the most dangerous wolf of all of them!"
Shakira explained the video's concept to MTV News: "This woman starts a journey going into her own closet. She is in this surreal kind of world where other fun things happen. She's just having fun. And there is also this other metaphor of the cage - the golden cage and the woman. I just wanted to express what it feels like for a she-wolf to be in captivity. To be in a golden cage. I think I've been in a golden cage most of my life. And now not anymore."
Shakira added that when she stepped back into that cage, the singer seemed to connect with something deeper within herself. "I start doing all kinds of outrageous stuff and hanging upside down and doing stuff that wasn't planned," she said. "But it was kind of an improvisation. I just got caught in the moment."
The song's other credited writer is Sam Endicott, vocalist of alternative rock act The Bravery. He told MTV News that together with John Hill, the track was created mostly on a whim. "I'm friends with John Hill," Endicott explained. "He and I co-produced the new Bravery album, and in the process of that, we would just make beats and stuff on the side. Just mainly for fun. We've done a lot of it, and somehow, Shakira contacted him, asking if he had any stuff. We never had her in mind. We just made the thing independently of her, and then she liked it a lot, and she sang over it. She used some of the melodies we put in there and then wrote these crazy lyrics about being a werewolf. And that's how it happened."
Endicott added with a smile: "When I first heard her singing on the song, I really liked it, because it's f---ing weird for a pop song. She definitely has a strange lyric sense. This isn't the first song she's done with some bizarre lyrics in it. I like the idea of a werewolf. And when I heard her idea for the song, I was like, 'You gotta have her howl at the moon at some point,' and she did it. She's a subtle wolf."
Shakira took a month to mix this song. She admitted to Q magazine October 2009: "I have issues letting go. My ears are torture, I hear everything - even the difference between digital and analogue."
Despite vampires and werewolves being all the rage in 2009, Shakira admitted to Billboard magazine that she hadn't heard of Twilight until she showed this song to her record label president Amanda Ghost - who in turn made her watch the 2008 film adaptation of the romantic fantasy novel. The Colombian singer said, "I loved it but I also found that it was, coincidentally, very appropriate. I think people are craving fantasy."
Shakira performed this on Saturday Night Live on October 17, 2009.
This was used on the Melrose Place reboot in the 2010 episode "Santa Fe."
Shakira kicked off the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show with "She Wolf." She and Jennifer Lopez performed that year.