1. Dare (La La La)
2. Can't Remember to Forget You [feat. Rihanna]
4. You Don't Care About Me
5. Cut Me Deep [feat. MAGIC!]
7. Broken Record
8. Medicine [feat. Blake Shelton]
10. The One Thing
11. Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte
12. Loca por Ti
Running time: 41:40
Shakira's self-titled offering sees her releasing new music for the first time in four years. Singles “Cant't Remember to Forget You” and “Empire” suggest a mix of genres well most marketing seems to suggest a return to Shakira's more favourable rock-tinged pop stylings. So of course the opening track “Dare (La La La)” is a straight up dance song to kick off the record with a infuriating backing vocal of, you guessed it, “La la la la la...” and so on. Sure, it's catchy and we'll probably hear it in all the clubs in a few weeks, but lyrically it's uninspiring and on the whole it's nothing we haven't heard before from countless other artists inferior to Shakira. You really feel like she's lowering herself with this one. It feels like attention-grabbing.
By this point we've probably all heard and formed an opinion on lead single “Can't Remember to Forget You.” It's a catchy little number and pretty different in comparison to the majority of pop music that's out there getting radio play right now. Quite clearly it's about trying and failing to realise when someone is bad for you because you're still in love with them. It's reggae and ska influences are shimmeringly brightly, but all in all it's a bit too easily forgettable, ironically enough. With the combined talents of Rihanna and Shakira you would probably expect something a bit more fierce but it suffers from the same issues that Shakira's collaboration with Beyonce on “Beautiful Liar” suffered from. Neither lady does enough to differentiate themselves from the other and a result is a charming but disposable pop record that is quite rightly drawing comparisons to the pop-rock sensibilities of recent Bruno Mars tracks but “Can't Remember to Forget You” lacks the swagger of a “Treasure” or “Locked Out of Heaven.”
“Empire” is much more like it. The track opens with some sparse piano work and a renewed focus on Shakira's powerful and soaring vocal. It's a straight up rock ballad and a return to Shakira's earliest work and her rock roots. The piano and strings make for some tremendous grandeur,creating vast soundscapes that tower behind Shakira's vocal, just like her own empire. I'm not sure how it will fare as a single, but it's definitely a track that first and foremost deserves some radio recognition and secondly, represents a direction in which Shakira frequently excels and as such you feel that's where this album needs to go. The hook is immense, the vocal stylings are both defiant and vulnerable, and the whole thing's a little bit Tori Amos-esque, and that's no bad thing. What follows is something of a comedown, the heavily-Latin influenced “You Don't Care About Me.” Lyrically Shakira talks in detail about looking after her man and getting no appreciation for it. There's some awkward rhyming couplets scattered throughout the verses and while the chorus is catchy, it lacks the bite and sizzle of what's required.
The obvious reggae and ska influences return once again on the infectious “Cut Me Down” and the song is much better for it. “Why do you make me believe we are spirits?” Ponderous Shakira on the track's wonderfully bouncy chorus. Reggae pop outfit MAGIC! guests on this track, adding a male backing vocal that goes back and forth with Shakira on a few occasions and it makes for a nice change of pace on the record. The song takes on a much more standard rock vibe on its latter half with a penetrating baseline upping the tempo towards the song's climax before horns explode all around frantic drums. More of this would most certainly be welcome. The fun is all cut short by the acoustic opening of “23” and in title and in sound it seems we're all going a bit Taylor Swift. But actually the results are surprisingly good, with Shakira offering another vulnerable vocal as she opens up to the listener. The song takes on a much slower face than anything else on the record and has a certain charm about it that others wouldn't be able to dream. Searching drums drift into the background like a racing heartbeat as Shakira bares her soul before erupting at the song's conclusion.
Continuing on the country vibe is “The One Thing,” which again opens with an acoustic guitar but is noticeably hitting a more middling tempo before descending into a more straightforward pop-rock vibe in it's faux-Avril Lavigne chorus. And let's be fair, “faux-Avril Lavigne” isn't something you want to be aiming for. The track is both harmless and forgettable but it feels about ten years too late, and that's unusual for an artist who typically has her finger on the pulse of what modern pop records require. “Medicine” features country star Blake Shelton in what is pretty much a straight up duet. I guess if you like Shelton you'll enjoy this offering, and if you don't then you won't. As someone living outside the US, my exposure to country music is minimal but the whole track comes off a little bit corny for my liking, though I can't fault either vocal performance from a technical standpoint. The way this album has progressed really does make that opening abortion seem out of place though. “Spotlight” agains sees Shakira embracing a rockier sound although this effort also has more electronic elements then we've been introduced to so far. The tempo is a little bit stop-start and that's off-putting but the vocal manages to hold your attention for the most part.
The pace slows down once again for the country stylings of “Broken Record,” an acoustically-driven track that is permeated by these wonderful string elements that provide a melancholic vibe to Shakira's vocal stylings. It's another lovelorn ballad that could have been a total disaster if it weren't for the delivery of Shakira. The track builds really well to its climax with horns and strings taking centre stage. The album closes with two all-Spanish offerings. For those who need to brush up on their language skills, “Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte” is a Rihanna-less version of lead single “Can't Remember to Forget You,” and actually makes for a more enjoyable listen. “Loca por Ti,” I'm fairly confident, translates to “Crazy For You” and it's another down-tempo number that harkens back to the artist's rock foundations. For the English listeners, it's a pleasant way to close the album because it allows you to focus on what is really this record's greatest attribute – Shakira's voice. For all the genre-hopping on this record it makes a nice change to just be able to take in a soothing, multi-faceted vocal that is simply a pleasure to listen to.
Shakira - “Can't Remember to Forget You [feat. Rihanna]
The 411: Shakira is something of a mixed back. It's great to hear Shakira return to her earlier sound that delves into the rock and reggae genres on a fairly regular basis. On the other hand she quite frequently tries her hand a the country genre on this one, even inviting Blake Shelton along for a duet. Most of these experiments have mixed results though. It's all pleasant enough, but I'd be hard-pressed to say too many of the tracks left a lasting impression on me. “Empire” was a stand out, as was “Cut Me Down,” both of which really embraced that reggae sound. Most of the more down-tempo numbers were delivered to perfection but were a bit too sweet for to be memorable. The album's opener is surely only included to serve as a single down the line because otherwise it just does not fits. If you're inclined to enjoy Shakria's more typical dance offerings then the bonus versions of this record are your friend. At the end of the day, it's a solid, if a bit middling effort from one of the typically stronger pop princesses in today's music industry. Shakira is at least worth a couple of listens.