Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Shakira | Shakira


★★★☆☆

Ten. Shakira is now on album number ten. That's crazy to think about, isn't it? One day she was the "Whenever, Wherever" girl, then the "Hips Don't Lie" girl, then the "Waka Waka" girl... And now she's simply Shakira, just as her newest album title suggests. But can she live up to everything she has done in the past?

The album opens with the lead single, which we all know and love: "Can't Remember to Forget You," which wouldn't be complete without that steamy video with Rihanna. The two ladies allow the song to take such a seductive, tropical feel that it's almost impossible not to love it. (A solo Spanish version is included in the track listing, as well, accordingly titled "Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte.")

Shakira quickly slows the album to a mid-tempo speed with the beautiful power ballad "Empire." In fact, I loved the song so much when it first debuted that I had to immediately write a review on it. The chorus quickly builds to a loud, explosive sound as Shakira sings "And the stars make love to the universe / And you touch me / And I'm like, and I'm like, and I'm like / Ooh, ooh, ooh, ooh." The sexy, smooth, reggae-infused "You Don't Care About Me" follows "Empire," which I quite like.

Following that bit is a song that sends Jennifer Lopez and her frequent RedOne-produced dance tracks packing. "Dare (La La La)" features the handiwork of Dr. Luke behind the soundboard and comes for blood in the genre of electronic dance music. Every time I listen through the album, I have to replay this track at least twice before moving onto "Cut Me Deep," which brings back the reggae influences first found in "Can't Remember To Forget You" and "You Don't Care About Me." The song features Magic!, a relatively new band from Canada.

In "23," Shakira takes time out to declare that she likes the number 23 to one-up Taylor Swift truly loves the father of her son in acoustic track, which ends with the sound of their child. Shakira met Gerard Piqué when he was 23 (which is ten years her junior), which makes the number meaningful to her: "I knew we had something / From the moment I met you I knew we had something / No one thought it could be true / Hey do you believe / Do you believe in destiny? / ‘Cause I do as I did then / When you were only 23."

Aiming at light pop-rock audiences, "The One Thing" goes from a relaxing verse pattern, to a light rock chorus, to a "We Will Rock You" stomp pattern. Everything in the track listing seems to flowing just fine until... ugh... The inevitable duet attempt between Shakira and another cast member of The Voice. Tearing a page out of Christina Aguilera's journal, Shakira pulls Blake Sheldon out of his country safe-zone for the pop-rock bit "Medicine." I guess it's alright, but it feels too predictable.

And who knew that Shakira could be related to Avril Lavigne at all? In "Spotlight," it seems that Shakira tries to pull her best Canadian faux-punk princess she could, as her vocal technique in the verses seemed to be emulating that of Lavigne's in "I'm With You." Following this is the forgettable "Broken Record" and the Spanish version of the first track on the record, as I had already mentioned.

Closing the standard version of Shakira is "Loca Por Ti," an original song in solely Spanish. (For those who do not know the language, the title translates to "Crazy For You.") It's a nice sounding and peaceful song, but ending the album with a Spanish piece in a primarily English speaking country is just a bit off-putting. But then again, that also helps express Shakira's roots, which I do like.

In the United States, a deluxe edition of the album can be found at Target stores which comes packaged with three extra tracks. The first bonus track is a re-work of "Dare (La La La)," while the second, called "Chasing Shadows," carries an early 2000s pop sound with disco influences and was penned by the amazing Sia Furler. Finally, "That Way" drifts the album away with a piano-filled lullaby.

There are some great songs on this record: "Can't Remember to Forget You," "Dare (La La La)," "You Don't Care About Me," and of course "Empire." But there are also some cuts on the album that are just simply forgettable. For a tenth album, I feel like there should be less filler material on the album, but there is a sufficient amount of good material for fans to hover over for a while. Personally, I know I'll have about half of the album on replay for a while.

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