Rock, Latin, Dance and Contemporary Pop are all genres that at one time or another have influenced Shakira’s musical career. As the face of Latin music across the world she’s sold 70 million records and she hasn’t done that by resting on her laurels. For her 10th LP Shakira, the Colombian songstress has incorporated all four genres and for the most part pulled off the fusion of those disparate elements into a cohesive unit.
The weak chink between two strong halves is ‘Spotlight’ which suffers from badly misjudged vocoder and altogether sloppy production. It’s a blatantly obvious piece of filler that they slapped on because evidently there was nothing better to offer. ‘Medicine’ too – a duet with Shakira’s fellow The Voice coach Blake Shelton also sounds out of place but that has more to do with a dodgy-sounding attempt at country. Something about Shakira confessing, “I don’t reach for the bottle of whiskey,” sounds off.
The bilingual fury of opener ‘Dare (La La La)’ smacks of the gloriousness of 2009 LP She Wolf. It fuses the successful dance elements of that album with the Latin influences that flavoured 2010’s Sale El Sol. Equally reminiscent of She Wolf is lead single ‘Can’t Remember to Forget You’. Courtesy of Rihanna’s guest feature it gains a reggae flavour that adds another enticing genre to Shakira. Despite the lowness of the vocal key, something that probably counted against the song on the radio, it stands out strongly from the bunch here. ‘Cut Me Deep’ has a similar Latin-reggae vibe and feels deeply reminiscent of a slowed down version of 2006 mega-hit ‘Hips Don’t Lie’.
‘Broken Record’ delivers the pop contemporary touch that Shakira needed. Fortunately Shakira’s drawl gives it a distinction that sets it apart from being something any pop songstress could sing. ‘The One Thing’ also shines as a fun 00s rock throwback and provides much hair-swishing potential for rockstar wannabes.
The true standout from the album though is ‘Empire’ and it benefits from blending together orchestral sings, Shakira’s signature wailing Latin vocals and her career-defining idiosyncratic lyrics. “Like the empires of the world unite, we are alive,” Shakira purrs over piano’s and faint rocky riffs, “and the stars make love to the universe, you’re my wildfire every single night.” An astute addition of the type of electronic wolf cry that catapulted ‘She Wolf’ up the charts in 2009 makes for a truly exceptional ballad.
The genius thing about Shakira is that it’s come full circle for Shakira. It includes everything that has elevated her to global megastar but the thing that will hook in new fans, rather than her iconic Latin-wail, is the rockier edge to the album. Shakira excels because she can helm half a dozen genres and sound in command at all times. Where a lesser singer might sound lost or like they were clutching at record-selling straws, Shakira sounds perfectly at home rocking out, hitting the dance floor or throwing it down over Latin strings. At LP-10 you might have expected Shakira to lazily rest on what her fans want but she’s instead delivered an album that offers things to entice new people without alienating her globe-spanning fan base.