Shakira

Without question, Latin rock superstar Shakira has a lot going for her. She produces her own albums, writes her own music and has one of the most distinctive voices in her genre, if not all of music today. Her previous album, the platinum Los Ladrones, was unquestionably innovative, passionate and expressive, surely one of the staples of modern Latin rock.

Unfortunately, that's all lost in translation.

Laundry Service, Shakira's debut English language album, is fragmented and inconsistent, failing to allow the freedom that Shakira's voice essentially demands. Her range of material is constricted to cliched ballads, tracks painfully reminiscent of 1985 and Latin-flavored material that falls flat on its face.


The album opens with "Objection," a rock-driven but tango-inspired track that begins optimistically enough; the song has energy that most of the album lacks. The frenetic pace of the verses, combined with a lack of a full grasp of English accentuation patterns, leads to some issues regarding lyric comprehension, but the track as a whole gives the false impression that Laundry Service will be much like Ladrones.

Artist: Shakira
Album: "Laundry Service"
Grade:C



What follows is a series of unmemorable ballads and other unremarkable songs, including the mediocre first single, "Whenever, Wherever." "Ready for the Good Times" is a particularly irritating attempt at retro club fanfare that fails to be either endearing or exceptionally danceable.

The absolute low point of the album surfaces in "Eyes Like Yours," the English version of "Ojos Asi," a notable track from Ladrones. The tracks from the two albums are completely identical aside from the fact that "Eye" has been dubbed over in English. The revised lyrics, penned by Gloria Estefan, are not only entirely uncharacteristic of Shakira's writing and lyrical style, but they do not complement the Middle Eastern flavor of the song in the least. Shakira herself seems more focused on careful pronunciation of the words than matching the untamed vigor of the Spanish version.

It is only natural that the Spanish tracks on the album are unquestionably the strongest. While "Whenever, Wherever" falters, "Suerte," the Spanish version, is much more fluid and attention grabbing. "Te Aviso, Te Anuncio," the Spanish equivalent of "Objection," though quite good in English, is even better in Spanish. The significant difference in the quality of the English and Spanish songs conveys the album's central problem: the confidence in Shakira's Spanish repertoire is conspicuously absent from the English tracks, an understandable but unfortunate truth.

The strongest offering from this album is Te Dejo Madrid, a musically simple but fervent piece more characteristic of Shakira's other work. The vocals are breathy but sturdy, playful yet sincere, refreshingly erratic but somehow simultaneously and emphatically controlled. The beautiful paradox that is Shakira's voice is put on prominent display.


The success of "Whenever, Wherever" on top 40 radio will undoubtedly lead to an increased presence of Shakira in America, although the timing is perhaps inopportune. Laundry Service comes on the tail end of the Latin pop craze stateside and is not even close to being impressive enough to push the trend back into the limelight.

Although Shakira has distinguished herself throughout her career as being an individual in her field, Laundry Service struggles in attempts to conform to the American Top 40 while still incorporating a facade of Shakira's normally prevalent and powerful Latin flair.

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