Shakira writes the oddest lyrics. Her left-field sensibility is refreshing given her sexpot persona — you’d expect the lyrical complexity of a Britney Spears song from a woman whose stomach is the featured performer in every one of her videos.
Shakira is relatively new to the English language, and I’m guessing that’s the source of some of her weirder turns of phrase.
I don’t know if I can defend — on artistic grounds — my enduring affection for Shakira.
Her lyrics are often absurd, and only sometimes intentionally. Her voice can be jarring, even grating. Her music tends toward mid-tempo soft rock with a dash of top 40.
And yet I own, and love, all eight of her studio albums — including five recorded in part or in full in Spanish.
When driving I often listen to complete albums, but since I switched from a CD player to a USB drive I’m just as likely to let it play songs in random order. It’s a nice way to hear a broader selection of my music collection, songs I might not reach for otherwise.
It’s also good for blog fodder. The Wallflowers’ ‘One Headlight’ popped up the other day and inspired Monday’s SOTD post. And this morning I was treated to today’s Shakira track.
I debated whether Shakira should be among the 35 artists I’m covering during my musical genome project but ultimately I realized the decision should have been a no-brainer. I own every one of her seven albums, four of which are performed entirely in Spanish — if that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.
The fact that she is the only foreign language act I listen to makes her an anomaly among this group, but she also stands apart thanks to her musical style. Or styles, I should say, because Shakira shifts between dance pop, Latin rock, R&B and jazz-era balladry.
My second installment of Random Weekends starts off with the English-language version of Shakira’s ‘Loca,’ a bonus track from her most recent album, 2010’s Sale El Sol.
The Spanish version of this song was the album’s lead-off single and I prefer it to this one, though to be honest, they’re basically the same. I just prefer Shakira’s voice in her native Spanish — the way the multi-sylabbic words roll off her tongue so effortlessly.
Best Songs of 2010 – Honorable Mentions
In 2010, Shakira continued her impressive win streak, releasing Sale el Sol just a year after the irresistible She Wolf.
After the latter record’s club-heavy focus, Sale el Sol was a return to the Latin dance and pop sounds that highlighted the early years of her career.
In a weird way, the record reminds me of Beck’s Guero, in that it’s a mature and measured synthesis of styles dabbled in over the previous decade. Probably the first time that comparison has been made.
Last year Shakira suffered her first commercial failure in some time, when her dance-heavy English-language She Wolf album failed to light up the charts.
Now, it seems a bit silly in this era to call 350,000 U.S. copies sold (not to mention 1.5 million worldwide) a disappointment but for an artist who’s sold more than 50 million copies of her previous five albums, I suppose the bar is set a little higher.
Despite its tepid sales, She Wolf was an artistic and critical success, its dance-pop sheen highlighting some of the most indelible melodies and infectious beats of Shakira’s career. But according to whoever writes the rules for pop music, the album has gone down as a failure.