As a long-time fan of Latin pop sensation Shakira, I was quite excited for her self-titled tenth studio album. It was released on March 21 and debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200, becoming her highest debut in the USA. This was not surprising, considering her growing popularity from her involvement on The Voice and her commercials for Activia and Crest, among others.
Shakira is her first English album since She Wolf in 2009. The lack of Spanish content sets it apart from her other albums, like The Sun Comes Out. What often sets Shakira’s albums apart in the music industry are the Spanish songs. Only two tracks on this album are in Spanish, one of which is a Spanish version of another track. But with the old language goes much of the old style as well.
Shakira takes a turn from Latin pop/dance to a more rock sound. While most of Shakira’s albums are typically based in catchy dance songs with the occasional ballad, this one is made of enjoyable rock/reggae numbers. Most of the songs are love songs dedicated to her boyfriend, Gerard Pique, and their son, Milan. For lyrics that are so honest and vulnerable, a more grounded sound suits the album better than the infectious beats behind “Hips Don’t Lie” or “La Tortura”. Don’t get me wrong, the album still has a few fun dance tracks. They just aren’t exemplary of this album. There are also influences of country and electronica as well. The album shows a different side of Shakira. The eponymous title and simple, but provocative cover suggest something deeper and more personal than what we would normally expect from her.
The deluxe version of the album opens with its lead single, Can’t Remember to Forget You. Featuring vocals from Rihanna, this infectious track has a fun and funky island feel to it. The only really disappointing thing about it is its lack of unison or harmonic vocals between the two singers. Like most modern pop duets, it is almost as if they are oblivious to each other’s presence; that is, until you watch the music video and realize that they may be singing about each other. See the video for the catchy and seductive number from the YouTube link below.
The following song, Empire, which was also the second single released, boasts a more romantic feel and alternative rock sound. At times her vocals soar, at others they slip through an uncomfortable section of her vocal range in much the same style as Alanis Morissette. While the track is well-produced and the instrumental generally flows well, it feels at times like a few good moments in the vocals are strung together or overplayed throughout the track. That being said, this song needs to be in a commercial for a fantasy TV show or video game. Check out the music video in the YouTube link below.
You Don’t Care About Me is a lot more generic in the general feel of the song, but still boasts a level of passion and anger in its lyrics and delivery. It is here that the soft rock tone of the album is established.
Dare (La La La) is the fun dance song on the album. The club beats and repetitive pop lyrics make it the anthem that FIFA needs for the upcoming World Cup. It is the perfect song to represent people from all over the world because you don’t have to speak any particular language to sing along to “la la la”. The only real musical criticism surrounds the awkward flow of the lyrics in the verses over the instrumental. And I hope that I am not the only one who pictures the children’s toy whenever she says “leggo”.
Cut Me Deep is a reggae-rock number that features Toronto-based up and coming reggae-rock group MAGIC!. Some may wonder why an artist as famous as Shakira would work with a relatively unknown Canadian rock group, but hearing the two together explains everything. Their voices work well together, their styles match and they are both featured on the Official 2014 FIFA World Cup album. The track is mournful in its lyrics, but the reggae feel makes it fun to listen to.
One of the most heartfelt numbers on the album is 23. The song is about a man she met when she was 23 years old that redefined her perspective on love. The only thing that makes this track more clearly about Pique is the sound bite of a baby at the end. This acoustic, stripped down number is easily one of the best on the album, but probably will not be released as a single. The following song, The One Thing, begins like a classic Avril Lavigne number, but as it goes on, the rock-reggae style kicks in under a rap/sung verse and instantly becomes more Shakira.
The award for most surprising track on the album would have to go to Medicine. The country track that features iconic country singer Blake Shelton shows fans that Shakira has learned a lot about diverse styles of music from their time together on The Voice. It is also the only duet on the album that features two voices melting together into one sound and the two sound great together.
The next two tracks, Spotlight and Broken Record, use metaphors to display the love that Shakira has to share. Both are musically quite similar, with the latter exhibiting some more interesting synths in the instrumental. It also begins a lot like the music on the Juno soundtrack.
There are 2 Spanish songs on this album. The first is Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte, which is the Spanish version of Can’t Remember to Forget You. Here, the track feels a lot more comforting, with the lyrics flowing in a more enchanting and romantic way. The only original Spanish song on the album is Loca por Ti, which keeps up the rock flavour of the album in a very sweet way.
The deluxe edition of the album features 3 additional tracks. La La La (Brasil 2014) is the World Cup version of Dare, with different lyrics related to soccer and Brazil and vocal work from Academy Award nominee Carlinhos Brown. Chasing Shadows brings an 80s new age post-Disco feel to the track, reminding fans that she is a pop artist. The album concludes with That Way, a gentle piano ballad.
Shakira is not a bad album in the slightest. Anyone who picks this up looking for a good listen will probably not be disappointed. I could see myself listening to it from time to time. However, for anyone looking for the known Shakira experience, I’d suggest backtracking to The Sun Comes Out. Shakira set out to give us something new and did a respectable job of it. It’s a lot more raw and heartfelt than her other releases.