When a pop star attracts praise from Nobel prize winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you know she's got to be a little bit different. Step forward Shakira, a husky young Colombian singer-songwriter who's the latest Latin-pop phenomenon to conquer America. The 24-year-old has an eccentric streak that sets her well apart from her Britney-clone rivals, spicing up her funky songs with surreal lyrics such as "Lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don't confuse them with mountains." Her music is no less bizarre, meanwhile, imposing breakneck tangos, twanging guitar solos and bizarre raps onto a familiar soft rock template. The line between fascinatingly strange and offputtingly weird is a thin one, and Laundry Service crosses it far too often to be considered a great album. Even so, Shakira's star quality can hardly be denied - and in today's increasingly conformist pop industry that deserves at least two cheers.
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