A Shakira that doesn't struggle translates to an album that does
Combination of Shakira's improved personal life, less lyrical involvement affect album
Release Date: March 25
Shakira is unapologetically candid in her music. Listeners empathized as she fell desperately in love in Laundry Service; felt her heart break in Oral Fixation Vol. 2; and channeled their inner animalistic sides in She Wolf.
In those albums, the Colombian singer/songwriter shared her most personal thoughts - we listened as she sorted through emotions during relationships, professed her love unabashedly to boyfriends and wished flea bites upon her ex and his new lover.
And, along the way, listeners related.
Ironically, in her new self-titled album Shakira, we're not hearing the Shakira we're used to. The singer's 10th album marks the first time she hasn't written or co-written all of the tracks, and as a result, the album somewhat suffered.
Since Shakira's last English album was released in 2009, the 37-year-old has started a new relationship with boyfriend Gerard Pique and birthed her first child.
I expected more insight into those experiences.
She gives us some in "Broken Record" and "23," both of which she wrote for Pique, and "The One Thing," which she wrote for their 1-year-old son, Milan. But the album as a whole left me wondering what else she's feeling and wanting more - something, as an avid Shakira listener, I'm not used to.
The best songs on the album capture the poetic quality of Shakira's music. In "Broken Record," for instance, Shakira sings to Pique as if no one else is listening. Her voice is fragile. The lyrics are intimate: "I'm older but you're wiser than anyone can see/ You're patient like no other has even been with me/ Your eyes take me to places/ I'd never dreamt about/ Your voice is the only music I can't do without."
She also brings us sincerity in "The One Thing." Written for her son, it's not a typical lullaby; it's an upbeat rock song that'll have you dancing, jumping up and down and waving your arms in the air - listeners feel Shakira's high-lifted spirit from the birth of her son.
And the lyrics are endearing as she attempts to explain her love for him: "I can't explain the way it feels/ I could choke on my own words/ Sometimes it seems like it ain't real/ Like you're really here my love."
Likewise, it wouldn't be a Shakira album without at least one hit pop song. Track two, "Can't Remember to Forget You," is the first single off the album. The collaboration with Rihanna has already reached Billboard's Top 100. There's also global potential in track one, "Dare (La La La)," an infectious, electro-pop song. Shakira has already recorded a version of it for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
But, in many tracks on the album, there are glimpses of Shakira's influence that tease the listener into wanting more. For instance, in "Empire," track three, Shakira's lyrics feel personal in the beginning, but then the song falls into a repetitive, catchy string of vocals that reveal she didn't have a strong lyrical influence on the track.
"Empire" is very obviously a new experiment for Shakira. The track dabbles with auto-tune and synths in the chorus that complement her strong vocals well. It's a new musical side to Shakira that works.
But other musical risks, like her first country song, "Medicine," featuring her fellow "Voice" judge Blake Shelton, ventured too far away from the passionate lyrical poet that she is.
The fifth track, "Cut Me Deep," featuring MAGIC!, has a mix of reggae, ska and rock reminiscent of No Doubt. The beat is catchy, and Shakira's vocals are beautiful, but the lyrics, not written by Shakira, again fall short.
Similarly, the lyrics of track four, "You Don't Care About Me," are implicative of a past experience, possibly with ex-boyfriend Antonio de la Rua. But Shakira didn't write this one. If she did, the lyrics may have been even more spiteful.
In past albums, Shakira captivated listeners through honest lyrics and ranging rhythms. In both ways, Shakira showed no boundaries.
Her music usually personifies honesty, sincerity, realness. As a celebrity in Hollywood, Shakira embodies those characteristics - and that's refreshing. Shakira is still good, and parts of it highlight those wonderful things about Shakira. But maybe that's just it - maybe she's not taking us through a struggling time.
She's in a point of her life where she's happy and content - and this album may simply represent that.