Saturday, May 1, 2010

Shakira's She Wolf Comes Out of the Closet

Shakira's latest release unleashes her inner-beast, but is her “Wolf” one that majestically howls at the moon, or one that is just howlingly bad?

Her new outfit of music was released just in time for Halloween, and just ike Laundry Service did with “Whenever, Wherever” and Fijacion Oral Vol. 1 did with “La Tortura,” She Wolf delivers a creamy, chocolaty first single, and an album full of nothing resembling it musically. This could be a good thing, if She Wolf was full of goodies, but out of it's nine tracks (12, if you count the Spanish version), only a handful are the equivalent of getting a Reese's peanut butter cup, while many of the rest are like getting those nasty, hard pieces of gum that only stay sweet for a second.

“She Wolf/Loba,” the albums first single, has already pawed its way to the top of Billboards Latin charts. From the disco guitars, organic bassline, and animal sexuality in Shakira's vocals, the song delivers pure aural pleasures. The track, though, works much better in Spanish, purely due to the whimsical lyrics of the English version. “La vida me ha dado un hambre voraz y tu apenas me das caramelos” (“Life has given me a ravenous hunger, and you only give me caramels”) makes a much sexier point than the English version's “I'm starting to feel a little abused like a coffee machine in an office.”)

When it comes to the sultry, sexy sounds on the album, “She Wolf/Loba” pretty much covers it. Neptunes produced songs like “Why Wait,” and “Long Time” both go down a he dead-end electronica/dance road. “Good Stuff,” another Neptunes-produced, beat-based track, turns out to be a bit more interesting since it fuses middle-eastern instruments with electronica, but in the end, there isn't much good stuff here. The problem with these Neptunes tracks is that they all full of trite, wannabe-sexy lyrics and beats, entirely void of eroticism. “Why Wait” and others lack the Latin heat and flirtation Shakira is known for. The songs are cold, mechanical, and ultimately boring, reminding one more of Pussy Cat Dolls or Britney Spears.

An on-the-fence song, “Did it Again” is both infectious and irritating. One one hand, the melody and structure are ace, but the use of the marching drums has never helped any song, and it doesn't help this one. The oddest thing about “Did it Again” is the breakdown after chorus. First you have the “Eh! Eh! Eh!” thing going on, then moans of pleasure, then back to the “Eh!'s,” it's almost like she's combining the hook from Rihannas's “Umbrella” and the oh-so-dirty moans of Madonna's “Erotica.” They work on their own, not together.

Being such a short album, simply a few bad tracks tend to make the album itself look weak, but there are some saviors. “Spy,” a collaboration with Wyclef Jean, is a fresh, fun song. The naughty story of Shakira giving a peeping-tom a little show, plus the string-filled production, which even includes Shakira imitated a trumpet, make this the twos best collaboration yet. While “Hips Don't Lie' wasn't much more than a blatant rip-off of Jerry Rivera's “Amores Como Nuestro” set to a reggeaton beat, “Spy” is an original stand-out.

Another repeatable is “Gypsy.” For years, pop stars have been inspired by the gypsies. From lyrics to music, the gitanos have touched many. Shakira's “Gypsy” is a sullen, slow, romantic ditty. Though not as memorable as other Gypsy-inspired tracks through history, such as Cher's “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves,” or Jennifer Lopez's “Que Ironia,” Shakira's vocal delivery and the sole guitar on “Gypsy” take the listener on an adventure; directly to the back of a Gypsy wagon while traveling the countryside.

Fans of “Don't Bother” from her Oral Fixation Vol. 2 LP will adore Shakira's recent musical journey back into chick-rock-dom, but for the others, don't bother. “Mon Amour” sounds like something P!nk would sing. And even though Shakira adds in a bit of odd-ball lyrics to the track like “Every night I pray that you don't knock her up, cuz I still want to be the mother of your child,” the track just doesn't work. Cringe-worthy would be an accurate way to describe the song, though not nearly as bad as any P!nk track.

In the end, Shakira's She Wolf doesn't have much growl. It lacks the power and swiftness one would expect from her. There tends to be a mixed bag of musical goodies in this production. Some are luscious, some are sweet, some are bitter, some are hard, and some you just don't know quite what to make out of. Perhaps there is more to be expected of Shakira's upcoming Spanish-language album, and perhaps she won't count on hip-hop producers to “sexify” her music up again. Why paint the peacock? Maybe the re-release of the album, schduled for November and will feature new tracks, including "Give it Up to Me," will have more to sink your teeth into. End of the day, simply rip “She Wolf/Loba” plus a few others, and leave She Wolf in the closet.

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