Always the weird cousin to the Pop Princesses, but still very much welcome at the head table whenever there's a reunion, Shakira very much dances to the beat of her own drum. Naturally achieving that kind of multi-cultural exoticness that Christina Aguilera is constantly striving for, but achieving popularity without "selling out" like Nelly Furtado did, Shakira always seemed ever so slightly ahead of the curve. Her 2009 album She Wolf saw her collaborating with Pharrell Williams before it was cool again, and just as she was achieving massive popularity in 2010, she releases a mostly Spanish album, and goes on hiatus to have a family.
Now she's back after a four year break, and the production line-up is, once again, quite forward thinking. Afrojack, Dr. Luke, Billboard, Circuit, Greg Kurstin; all very now, all very on trend. Then the first track plays, the soon-to-be insta-hit of the summer "Dare (La La La)", which features all but one of the aforementioned producers, who then never appear again on the rest of the album. Track two is the current single "Can't Remember To Forget You", given some added star-power thanks to a not-trying-very-hard Rihanna, and sounding like something you'd hear No Doubt release on a very good day.
Then, quite suddenly, the rest of the album blurs into one, long, similar sounding song, with only a few peaks throughout. Next single "Empire", produced by Steve Mac (the guy behind most of the hits for The Saturdays and The Wanted), sounds a little manic and ludicrous during the chorus, but loses all the steam every time the verse comes back around. "You Don't Care About Me" starts off pretty well, but ends up being nearly four minutes of build up to a massive chorus or base-drop that never arrives. "Cut Me Deep" returns to the ska-rock feel of "Can't Remember", but without any of the sexy, sing-along lyricism.
The Greg Kurstin produced track, "Spotlight", is one of the few highlights, but it really sounds like a song that was intended for Avril Lavigne or Jessie J or Lily Allen, pretty much anyone but Shakira. Then there's the trifecta of "Broken Record", "Medicine" and "23", all of which sound like Taylor Swift B-sides. The English portion of the album ends with "The One Thing", which is yet another mild-rock'n'b love song that is so forgettable, we couldn't remember how the chorus went mere seconds after the song ended.
Closing out the album, there's the Spanish language version of "Can't Remember To Forget You", and "Loca Por Ti", a Spanish-guitar bedroom slow jam that is more likely to put people to sleep. The intent of the album is clear, to return to the roots of Oral Fixation with rock jam love songs and sexy time booty shakers. Unfortunately, there are far too few of the latter, and all of the former are far too samey. Just download the singles and leave the rest.
Review by Rory Cashin | TWO STARS