Shakira. is a sound, enjoyable effort, misses a “Hips Don’t Lie” caliber hit
Shakira • Shakira • RCA • US Release Date: March 25, 2014
Latin-pop star Shakira returns following a five-year hiatus between English-language albums (she released Spanish album Sale el Sol in October 2010). 2009 LP She Wolf was Shakira’s previous album of such vein, but failed to match the success of 2005 effort Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, an album fueled by a monster single (“Hips Don’t Lie”). Despite critical acclaim and a successful single in “She Wolf” (peaked at no. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100), She Wolf wasn’t a commercial triumph in the U.S. Shakira is likely anticipating better fortunes with latest album Shakira., led by another big-time single in “Can’t Remember To Forget You”. All in all Shakira. proves to be a well done album that finds the artist restlessly shifting styles. It’s not perfect nor is it innovative, but Shakira. is no slouch either.
“Can’t Remember To Forget You” opens Shakira superbly, assisted by urban-pop “it” girl, Rihanna. Initially, “Can’t Remember To Forget You” didn’t appeal personally, but after multiple listens, my opinion has shifted; the joint is definitely enjoyable. Part of the appeal is the fact that this pop single doesn’t sound like everything else on the radio – it doesn’t rely solely on being trendy or showing off the cliché bag of pop tricks and gimmicks. “Empire” follows soundly. While it may lack the ‘bright lights’ that grace the opener, “Empire” ends up being exceptionally well done. Initially, the cut is a bit off-putting, particularly given the unique quality of Shakira’s voice with its one-of-a-kind nuances. As “Empire” progresses, it evolves into something special – sort of a ‘diamond in the rough’ of sorts. As simplistic as it is, one of the highlighting moments of “Empire” is the nonsensical chorus: “And I’m like / Hooooooooo, Hooooooooo…” Maybe those lyrics seem even sillier taken out of context, but all the listener needs to know is Shakira is referencing love…
After speaking of her man ‘touching her’ and a reaction of “Hooooooooo”, the fine “You Don’t Care About Me” finds Shakira knowing the man doesn’t care about her. The lyrics confirm that her relationship was one-sided: “Before you came along / it was all beautiful / I have nothing left in my heart, in my soul / should have never help you become / so powerful / but I saw a champion in your eyes.” If that excerpt wasn’t enough, Shakira sings the titular lyric repeatedly, emphasizing the “non-love” as Alicia Keys might put it. After the avoiding trendy pop, “Dare (La La La)” gives in fully – yes, that means it is produced by Dr. Luke, who gets some help from J2, Cirkut, Billboard, and the star herself. Max Martin co-writes, sealing the danceable electro-pop deal. “Dare” is by no means the ‘second coming’ nor the best dance-pop cut of the year, but it’s decent. “Cut Me Deep” switches genres, opting for reggae. A more natural fit, “Cut Me Deep” eclipses “Dare”. She gets a solid assist from Magic!.
“23” once more delivers contrast, with an acoustic guitar-driven sound. Shakira sings “23” particularly well (not that she doesn’t sing everything else great), something that the clean sound/production allows for here. The groove that enters upon the second verse is certainly a highlight. Besides the vocals and sound itself, the lyrics shine, specifically a genius agnostic/religious reference: “I used to think there was no God / But then you looked at me with your blue eyes / and my agnosticism turned into dust.” “The One Thing” has more “oomph” perhaps than “23”, keeping things interesting. A gargantuan pop chorus makes “The One Thing” stand out: “You are the one thing that I got right / it’s a fickle world, it’s a fickle world / you turned the darkness into sunlight / I’m a lucky girl, yeah I’m a lucky girl.”
On “Medicine”, Shakira brings in The Voice colleague Blake Shelton. Christina Aguilera did the same thing on her previous album, Lotus. The results are positive, as this country-pop combo actually works. Neither Shelton nor Shakira have to leave their respective comfort zones; this is a balanced song. “Spotlight” is more pop-minded, inciting head nodding from the opening tip. “Spotlight” is good, but it doesn’t quite match the best cuts – the truly elites. “Broken Record” also suffers a similar fate, perhaps more so than “Spotlight”, which has its more addictive groove to propel it. “Broken Record” is more of a singer/songwriter-oriented cut, co-written by Shakira and busbee. The production is light, which is a mixed blessing. Shakira’s voice becomes the feature (pro), but the production feels as if it could use an additional spark, even with the use of strings. Penultimate track “Nunca Me Acuerdo De Olvidarte” provides the Spanish version of hit-single “Can’t Remember To Forget You”, while a second Spanish track, “Loca Por Ti” closes the album beautifully, if not necessarily electrifyingly.
Ultimatley, Shakira. is a fine addition to the artist’s discography. After having hesitance in purchasing the album, after listening, I’m happy that I did. While Shakira. isn’t the ‘album of the year’, it also isn’t a ‘one and done’ either; it definitely is worthy of some spins. Shakira – well, she does some things!
“Can’t Remember To Forget You”; “Empire”; “You Don’t Care About Me”; “23”