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Album review: Shakira – Shakira

Shakira's 10th album features a varied collection of styles – ranging from dance, rock, reggae to country – but somehow gels together by her arresting voice.

Shakira performs at the 2014 Echo Music Awards in Berlin. Johannes Eisele / AFP. March 27, 2014
Shakira performs at the 2014 Echo Music Awards in Berlin. Johannes Eisele / AFP. March 27, 2014

Shakira Shakira (Sony) *** ⋆⋆⋆

Through her nine albums, Shakira has built a glittering career as the queen of Latin-American pop – with Fijación Oral, Vol 1 (2005) and Sale el Sol (2010) garnering big sales in South America and Europe.

However, despite selling over 70 million albums, the Colombian singer remains an oddity in the American market. With the exception of her first English album in 2001, the successful Laundry Service (home to the brilliant Whenever, Wherever), the 37-year-old has not been getting much love stateside.

So it made sense for Shakira to shake things up – with a new label and perhaps, more importantly, a new management deal with Jay Z’s Roc Nation. She is also a coach on the American edition of The Voice.

Despite these efforts, her 10th self-titled album does not smack of total desperation. It features a varied collection of styles – ranging from dance, rock, reggae to country – but somehow gels together with Shakira’s arresting voice.

The opener and lead single, the infectious reggae-dance mix of Can’t Remember to Forget You, is what happens when you’re in Jay Z’s books: you get his prodigy Rihanna to chip in with a guest feature – and you top the American dance charts.

Dare (La La La) is meant to be Shakira’s 2014 World Cup anthem. Produced by Dr Luke, it doesn’t have the charm of Waka Waka but the Brazilian drums and chanting chorus should rouse stadium crowds.

Then comes the album’s biggest moment with Empires. The epic track is reminiscent of Seal’s Kiss from a Rose with its elements of baroque pop and a soaring rock chorus. Beginning with a piano-led Tori Amos-like vocal intro, Shakira’s husky voice then remerges over a lush bed of strings before climaxing in stadium-sized woo-hoos.

The album’s romantic second half is more on the acoustic tip. Shakira’s gets all gooey-eyed over rootsy guitars in 23, a declaration of her love for her partner, the Barcelona footballer Gerard Piqué.

The follow-up, the affecting The One Thing, has Shakira’s voice quavering with emotion in her love letter to her baby son, Milan.

Medicine, an ill-fated country duet with her fellow The Voice mentor Blake Shelton, is the album’s only real misstep. While there’s nothing wrong with the sturdy tune, the song’s streamlined structure doesn’t allow Shakira’s versatile voice to shine. It is the only moment where you feel that Shakira isn’t being herself – a minor blip in what is another solid effort.

sasaeed@thenational.ae