Shakira “Shakira” Review

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Shakira’s fourth English language album is fun and eclectic, hitting almost every base.

What makes one pop album good and another bad is often just subtle differences, because on “Shakira,” like most pop albums these days, there isn’t really anything new going on. It all lies in how the singer embraces the songs. Shakira takes a number of different influences on this album and has fun with them – so even if it isn’t much different from her past work, it’s still great, because it’s simply fun to listen to.

The album is very topheavy, in the sense that the first half is a lot more fun than the second. The album’s first half is all huge pop boomers, with big beats and bigger vocals, while the second half is lighter and shows a more musical side. All but one of the songs work, but the earlier big songs are a lot more memorable.

The album’s most well-known song and opening track (second track on the digital version) is also probably the best: the Rihanna duet “Can’t Remember to Forget You.” It’s grand and catchy, and Shakira proves she can overpower even Rihanna. The album’s other best songs are all near the top – fellow single “Empire” and “Cut Me Deep,” a duet with Magic that leads to a loud, horn finale. These opening tracks show how powerful Shakira’s vocals are, dominating nearly every song.

“Cut Me Deep” leads into “Spotlight,” the first of the sweeter, softer songs, and one of the better ones. “23” is the best of the album’s second half, a touching ditty that doesn’t focus on being anything other than a love ballad. The album’s third collaboration, “Medicine,” is the only weak track. Here she sings with fellow Voice judge Blake Shelton, in a straight country song that doesn’t really fit the rest of the album, despite the album’s eclectic nature.

The album’s best quality is that eclectic nature. There are hints (some stronger than others) of reggae throughout. Some songs are club-ready, some tender acoustic ballads. It ends with two Spanish language songs – “Loca por Ti” and the equally great Spanish version of “Can’t Remember to Forget You.” It’s this free and open quality that makes some pop albums better than others. Take, for example, Selena Gomez’s debut “Stars Dance” last summer. Gomez limited herself to club pop with medium beats, likely reasoning being that she didn’t want to make an album that was too “random.” And it was forgettable (although worth mentioning that Shakira’s career long overpowers Gomez’s). “Shakira” doesn’t limit itself, it explores all of her different interests. And it’s memorable. Shakira shows her power, and gives us another great pop album that isn’t even in her primary recording language.

Grade: B+

-By Andrew McNally

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