Karol G’s Rise to Fame: From Vocal Competition Show to Global Superstar

Karol G has managed to seemingly transcend geographic borders in a mere two years. With upbeat reggaeton tempos developed by her musical partner Ovy on The Drums, she has broken through a male dominated genre. The first to do so on such a scale since Ivy Queen in the early 00s.

What is it that connects fans across the world to Karol? Her charisma emanates through the screen and her music, allowing her to develop a high engagement with her audience through social media.

Her record breaking album, “Mañana Sera Bonito” became the first Spanish-speaking album to reach the Billboard 200 upon its release, selling 94 million albums. The album showcases much of what Karol has learned along the way as a musician and as a person. Sonically, it goes beyond the reggaeton genre, touching Mexican regional waters with the banda single “Gucci Los Paños” and Dominican territory with “Playa.”

Characteristically, she’s developed and morphed into a full blown sexually open woman. With “Gatubela,” she’s finally reached a level of self-appreciation through sexier and more explicit lyrics. Although her music has become more sexual, her tongue in cheek style allows for her records to continue to be played.

“ese werfanito necesita una mama”

While it may seem that, as Daddy Yankee says, she has taken an elevator rather than climbed stairs, she has actually been hard at work developing her music and the personality she has today while living in Latin America.

Karol’s story begins in Medellin, Colombia. Born Carolina Giraldo in 1991, she was gifted with musical talents from the start. The daughter of a musician father who made sure she was a part of various musical classes, like electric guitar and piano. At the age of 14, she expresses being introverted and being quite shy, yet her father signed her up to appear on Colombia’s “Factor XS.”

Factor XS is a children and teen vocal competition show, an opportunity she expresses made her breakthrough her shyness. Shortly after that, she was able to become a backup singer for Reykon, a Colombian reggaeton singer. She continued knocking on doors, getting an opportunity to perform on Colombia’s “Show de las Estrellas.” The opportunity also lead her to being singed to Diamond Music, a Puerto Rican record label.

Even with such opportunities she had trouble getting signed to major record labels.

In an interview with Leila Cobo for Billboard, she states that after years of giving music a try, she had decided to switch routes by making her way to the US and working. While on a train, she saw an ad for a women’s music conference in Boston, a trip she says reinvigorated her desire to give music another try.

This time, it would be a success. She would go on to record her debut album titled “Unstoppable” on Universal Latin record label, featuring the now major artist, Bad Bunny.

Though her first album seemed to be an automatic hit, she has discussed the way she used to travel with her father from town to town in Colombia, performing at universities, clubs, parties. Anywhere to get her music heard. She’s even shared between laughs that her family used to call radio stations to request her music.

Like many artists who are women in pop culture, Karol G also had a shifting moment in her public identity, something Leila Cobo mentions in the interview with Billboard. Karol acknowledges that although more sexuality explicit than before, it was important for her music to accurately reflect who she is at that stage in her life. This shift would come to show through her second album, specifically in “Mi Cama.”

Her second album was titled “Ocean” and featured more artists that have since also reached major exposure. Artists include Bad bunny, J Balvin, and an influence of G’s, Nicki Jam. The album included singles like “Ocean” and “Mi Cama,” both of which form a part of her regular set list today.

Her follow-up, “KG0516,” would begin her tradition of paying homage to artists she loves. Her single “Beautiful Boy” samples Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girl,” while “Leyendas” is a remake of Ivy Queen’s iconic “Quiero Bailar,” which features Queen herself as well as Nicki Jam, Wisin y Yandel, Zion, and Alberto Stylee. In conversation with Chente Ydrach, she discusses the way she requested each artist to switch parts, with Alberto Stylee (composer) and Ivy Queen keeping their own parts.

Like many artists, her personal life has become a part of her musical career, and while not responsible, it has influenced some of her most popular singles and features. 2021’s “Mamii” by Becky G features Karol G in a duo of two famous Latina singers with G last names, a powerhouse collaboration that has become a woman’s anthem for post-heart break triumph.

In her latest release, she’s discovered her sexuality in a more explicit way while also exposing her tender side. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the album is her ability to adapt to new genres. Her album features songs like “Gucci Los paños” which is a song with banda roots, a Mexican regional genre.

Her album also features an ultimate collaboration of arguably the two most successful Colombian woman singers to ever cross over to the United States, Karol G and Shakira. In an interview on the Latin American talk show “El Hormiguero”, she states she wrote what would become “TQM” after recording “MAMII” with Becky G. She expresses her desire to keep the song to herself, until she became aware of what Shakira was going through with her divorce, which encouraged her to reach out to her with the song. Although Shakira had previously declined a collaboration, this time the mutual life coincidence brought the song to be.

Karol G surprised fans with a double album release in a single year with “Mañana Sera Bonito: Bichota Season.” Part B of her “Mañana Sera Bonito” concept see’s Karol at an elevated stage within her own personal growth, with a new weight loss and significantly sexier dance routines than previous tours.

Choosing Parris Goebel as the choreographer for her very first MTV VMA’s performance, Karol displayed an uncensored and self-assured femininity.

There are many reason’s for why Karol has become the superstar she is today, like her talent, her charisma, and her humility. But beyond all, fan’s are able to see she is a real person, just like everyone else. Today she’s become the poster girl of love and triumph, inspiring a generation of women to keep loving post-heartbreak.

You can now listen to Karol’s latest album “Mañana Sera Bonito: Bichota Season” below and make sure to check her out in Netflix’s “Griselda” in January 2024.

Mayra Ramales
Mayra Ramales
Mayra Ramales founded The Sound Live in 2014, with the goal of highlighting underground talent. By creating a media platform, she aimed to expand accessibility to music journalist for up-and-coming writers and media creators. She completed her undergraduate degree at NYU and a dual masters at the University of Texas at Austin. She hopes to maintain The Sound Live as a DIY hub for everyday creatives.