Shakira aims to showcase her diversity on 2014’s self-titled Shakira. Unfortunately though, from reggae, dance pop, club bangers and even a country track, there is much diversity but little cohesion on the album. Shakira is as strong as ever on her wisely picked singles, but the rest of the album falters trying to get its footing. Many songs on the album are enjoyable on their own, but listening to Shakira in its entirety feels disjointed and directionless.
Shakira’s strength lies in her vocals, and it is ultimately the varying production styles that hold her back. Her lyrics get more intimate and she sounds as strong as ever, but Shakira comes in as an underwhelming attempt to be the jack of all trades and master of none.
Rihanna joins Shakira for the addictive reggae-pop track “Can’t Remember To Forget You”. The unlikely duo ooze sex appeal, and their voices, while different tonally, actually come together to be a delight. Shakira and Rihanna are spellbound by a romeo who is bad for them – but thinking of him makes them forget all about his bad side. Also included on Shakira is “Nunca Me Acuerdo De Olvidarte” a solo Spanish version. It would be interesting to hear a solo English version of the song; Shakira’s vocals are, by her very nature, softer than Rihanna’s raw sound, which seems more appropriate to the character on the track.
On “Empire”, Shakira is smitten on the stripped back track, letting her vocals do the talking. As her lyrics suggest, “Empire” is a cosmic, rock treat. “The stars make love to the universe / You’re my wildfire every night,” she sings. The song’s accompanying music video captures both the essence of the track and of Shakira herself. The visuals are earthy and imaginative, beautifully portraying the song’s poetic lyrics.
“You Don’t Care About Me” and “Cut Me Deep” are two beautiful breakup songs. On “You Don’t Care About Me”, Shakira’s lyrics are heartbreaking as she comes to the realization she is in a relationship where the love isn’t mutual. She stays with the man, even though he doesn’t care. The mid-tempo song is both wistful and spiteful; Shakira is lamenting that her romance is broken, but she is confident in the destiny of the relationship. She’s no longer wondering or expecting things to change.
“Cut Me Deep” is another song where Shakira confronts a disrespectful lover, this time with a reggae inspired production. She finds herself bruised and broken, and her man only makes things worse. “Why do you make me believe we are spirits molded together to conquer this Earth? Climb up the mountains so high we can see them, then send me to plummet with savaging words.” Shakira paints a beautifully tragic picture, and your heart can’t help but feel sadness for her situation.
The third single off Shakira, “Dare (La La La)”, was also re-recorded with new verses for the 2014 World Cup. In its original production, “Dare” is a dance-pop banger, and Shakira uses her seductive lyrics to woo a potential lover she meets on the dance floor. She falls hard for his blue Spanish eyes, and finds herself drunk in love, despite being sober. The re-recorded anthem is a less imaginative re-haul, with clearly generic lyrics about the soccer tournament.
“23” is a passionate love letter from Shakira to her partner, Gerard Piqué, whom she met when he was 23. The track is laid back and mellow; the beauty of “23” is in its words – a large production is, thankfully, unnecessary. The song, written when Shakira was 37, is a reflective look back at time, aging, and a love that is non-diminishing.
“The One Thing” is an upbeat and joyous song written for Shakira’s son, Milan. A mother’s love is unrivaled, and Shakira’s affection for Milan is beautiful. “You are the one thing I got right / You turn the darkness into sun light.” “The One Thing” needs no explanation; it is simply an uplifting and enchanting. The nail is hit on the head with the production of this track.
Country superstar Blake Shelton joins Shakira for “Medicine”, a track that aims to show the diversity to Shakira’s talents. While Shelton does the song justice, it is obvious that Shakira is out of her element. All the pieces are there of a great country song, but the track seems directionless and ultimately veers off track to be an uninspired dud.
Wonderfully infectious production saves “Spotlight” from feeling too generic. The verses are genuinely inventive and creative, but like “Medicine”, “Spotlight” feels less than relatable as Shakira croons about her love for Piqué despite the constant spotlight on their relationship and age gap. This track is personal, but not one in which you can necessarily put yourself into Shakira’s shoes. Nonetheless, “Spotlight” is one of the few tracks on Shakira that shines thanks to its production (and clever verses, too – but all of Shakira features wise words). “Broken Record” is another track dedicated to Shakira’s love, but Shakira’s more abstract lyrics make it a more relatable slow and rhythmic track.
The standout tracks on Shakira make it a nice addition to her discography, despite a dud and some mindless filler. Shakira should go down as the album where Shakira experimented with her sound and ultimately found herself – and hopefully albums to come will be more refined and less all over the map. You can purchase Shakira on iTunes.