Friday, October 15, 2010

Shakira Burns Bright

In the wide range of things, one might question what ever happened to Shakira? In the beginning, with her major label, worldwide debut with Pies Descalzos, Shakira reigned as a talented singer-songwriter, with, while had some Latin influences, was more about the lyrics than anything else. Then came the English debut album and the bleached blonde hair. Not much changed, she still produced some impressive work, but shortly after that, when her career began to falter, things began to change.

While Shakira has done a world of good for the world, her music lately hasn't done as much. “La Tortura” still remains a classic, but between then and now Shakira has been shaking her honest hips (since they don't lie) down the sell-out lane.

First was the English rock-album that had the musical and lyrical “quality” (or lack their of) of an Avril Lavigne LP, then a techno-based record that sounded like Britney Spears rejects. “She-Wolf” was one of her finest moments, 3-minutes of organic-disco bliss, but the rest of the album was more of a chihuahua than a loba music wise.

This time around, Shakira gets back to her roots at times, and moves forward at others, something that allows most of the album to shine as bright as the sun.

Staying away from the most obvious dance-trends traps she fell into on her last album, Shakira this time spins into a merengue club sound. Slower and more sensual than conventional merengue, the tracks “Gordita” and “Addicted to You” and “Rabiosa” (Spanish Version) show Shakira has found her sexy-side, something that was missing on She-Wolf.

Thankfully there is a various Spanish version, because “Rabiosa,” (English Version) features Pitbull, which is kind of featuring Vanilla Ice on a Madonna record. Pitbull has no place on a Shakira album, or on anything musical for that matter.

The premiere single “Loca” isn't the craziest decision for a single, but it's certainly not the shining moment on the album, sounding more like a b-side to the should-be-single “Gordita.” Shakira starts the song ordering her audidence to “dance or die.” Perhaps the most commanding, yet cringe-worthy opening for a song, well, ever. The English version contains Dizzie Rascal and the Spanish-version has El Cata rhyming along Shakira. Both versions could lose the rapper and use the time to expand on the enjoyable merengue sound.

The rock-flavored tracks, like the weak “Devocion” always tend to weigh down Shakira's albums, yet no matter the sound of the album itself, the rock songs always seem to make their appearance. Much stronger rock-tracks then the Oral Fixation records had, songs like “Islands” and “Antes De Las Seis” float musically into a much lighter side than the usual aggressiveness of Shakira's electronic guitar-driven moments.

Shakira softens even more on the soft-piano ballad “Lo Que Mas” and made-for-radio “Mariposas.” Both tracks are sweet, if not particularly memorable.

The sun does go down sometimes, though. “Waka Waka” was fine for the World Cup, whatever, but to include on the record feels oddly out of place. Not merely because the track itself it as kitschy as a 90's one hit wonder, but because the new recorded tracks outshine it to the point it's the only real spot on the record where the sun doesn't touch.

Finally, after record, after record, Shakira has made a comeback. Not commercially, as she has remained on top all these years as the top Latina artist (though, with little competition), but artistically. Looking up, Shakira has finally found a balance between the Shakira we want, the Shakira we remember, and the Shakira she wants to be.

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