Colombian superstar Shakira released her newest album, a self-titled one, on Tuesday (March 25). Her first foray into a full English record since 2009's “She Wolf,” she turns down the electronic beats (for the most part) and returns to her rock roots on “Shakira.” The simple cover art couldn't be more representative of the album with Shakira cradling a guitar in her arms. Guitars and breezy reggae vibes blanket her poetic lyricism about new-found love. With a mellowed sound, Shakira lets her vulnerability shine through on the beautifully honest effort.
The best song on “Shakira.” is also the most stripped-down of the bunch. Over some light percussion and the pluck of a guitar string, Shakira lays her heart out bare on “Broken Record.” She truly has a knack for capturing the poetic quality of the Spanish language in her English lyrics. To beau Gerard Piqué she sings, “Your eyes take me places I never dreamt about / Your voice is the only music I can't do without.” Shakira's fragility and sincerity with every word spoken on “Broken Record” make it one of her most captivating tracks.
Shakira also tackles the troubles of love on “Cut Me Deep,” another album standout. She mixes the reggae reverb of Canadian band Magic! with her own rock sound to create something stinging and striking. Magic! frontman Nasri Atweh and Shakira go back and forth about being betrayed by a lover. “You cut me deep / Your words are like steel,” they sing in unison, dragging out the end of each line to maximize the damage done. The two turn a painful time into a magnificent moment of passion and power.
Shakira mostly revels in the beauty of love, especially on the folksy ballad “23.” A pitter-patter beat and gentle guitar strumming back Shakira as she reflects on life before love. “A couple years ago I was lonely / I used to think that there was no God / But then you looked at me with those blue eyes and my agnosticism turned into dust,” she croons. Naturally, her baby with Piqué, Milan, pops up with a coo near the end of the touching track. On “Empire,” Shakira embraces her inner rock goddess, championing a sublime and celestial romance. "Like the empires of world unite / We are alive," she belts in a mighty performance. For the Spanish speakers, Shakira includes “Loca Por Ti,” a soaring ballad that is tender on any set of ears, regardless of language.
The closest Shakira gets to “Hips Don't Lie” territory on her new album is “Dare (La La La).” On the fiery dance track, she teams up with pop hitmaker Dr. Luke. Tribal beats with pulsating electronic production light the song up. Shakira looks to incite a naughty version of Truth or Dare in the club when she teases, “I dare you to kiss me with everyone watching.” She also livens up the album with the slinky “Can't Remember to Forget You.” Shakira collaborates with Rihanna on the colorful, ska-influenced jam as they pine over an irresistible bad boy. Blake Shelton, her fellow coach on “The Voice,” later gets in on the action with “Medicine.” The country-pop tune is the most left field on the album (Shelton singing “Pop-pop-poppin' the pills”) but the two singers surprisingly work it out together.
Sound wise, Shakira's self-titled album may be her most tame English language release but lyrically, it is her deepest and most personal effort yet. She sidesteps busy beats and instead treads lightly with honest and sincere songs. Shakira in love and writing so gracefully about it will leave you completely enamored with her latest record.
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