Saturday, October 23, 2010


The new Shakira album, Sale el Sol, arrived in today's mail, and having nothing better to do, I listened to it. It's being marketed as her return to her Latin roots after last year's Euro-style dance-club disc She Wolf, which didn't do nearly as well as expected. Most of the songs on this one are sung in Spanish, but if you think that's gonna inspire Shakira to greater heights of vocal passion than she's mustered in the past half-dozen years or so, forget it.

The opening title track is limp rock, with a fuzzy electric guitar riff (by who knows who—the producers and guest vocalists are all credited, but none of the instrumentalists are, demonstrating convincingly that this is a pop album and not a rock record). The second track, "Loca," is electronic merengue, but it feels like it's playing at half-speed. Up next is an even more watery acoustic-guitar-and-piano ballad, "Ante de las Seis," and that's followed by another electronic, beat-driven number, "Gordita."

This is the first remotely interesting song on the album, because it features a guest spot by Residente de Calle 13, and he's jabbing at Shakira, speaking for (I'd bet) a sizable portion of Latin rock fans when he says that he liked her better before she moved to Miami and dyed her hair:

Shaki tú estás bien bonita aunque también me gustaba cuando estabas más gordita
Con el pelito negrito y la cara redondita
Así medio roquerita

Shakira tries to keep up, turning the song into a half-dirty (for pop) duo, but it's got nothing on Residente's back-and-forth with Mala Rodríguez on "Mala Suerta con el 13," from Calle 13's own Residente o Visitante CD. And the album's momentum sags a bit after that.

"Addicted to You" is an English-language song that seems about 90 seconds long; "Lo Que Más" is another boring ballad; and "Mariposas" is a Spanish-language take on the girl-and-her-piano almost-rock songs VH1 plays all morning.

"Rabiosa" is one of three songs that appear in two versions on Sale el Sol. This first one is another electro-merengue track, like "Loca" featuring El Cata, but this one's slightly faster and it could have been pretty good if Shakira's attempts at sexy moaning didn't sound like she was waking up from a siesta.

"Devocíon" is a postpunk track driven by throbbing bass and atmospheric keyboards straight from the Cure's Disintegration, and her vocals are probably the best on the whole record. This is the best song on the whole disc; for pure passion, I'd put it right up there with "Timor," the last track on Oral Fixation, Vol. 2, and the last track of hers that really surprised me (in a good way).

"Islands" is in English, all distorted keyboards and New Wave pulse; it's not bad, but I can't see it being a hit, 'cause it doesn't have much of a chorus.

"Tu Boca," which frankly I was expecting to be another drippy ballad, is actually another postpunk rocker, with tons of bass and a melody that reminds me of Natalia Lafourcade's second album (credited to her band Natalia y la Forquetina), Casa. Shakira even heads into Natalia's upper-register vocal territory on a few lines. This song and "Devocíon" are the two keepers.

The last song on the album proper is "Waka Waka (Esto Es Africa)," and I have nothing to say about that.

The bonus tracks are a remix of "Loca" featuring formerly-overrated, now-forgotten UK "grime" rapper Dizzee Rascal; a remix of "Rabiosa" featuring Pitbull; and an English-language version of "Waka Waka." None of them are particularly good. I used to like Pitbull a lot, but he'll appear on just any damn thing these days, and he always sounds the same. He hasn't been at full strength since his second album, El Mariel.

This is a short album (without the three bonus tracks, it'd be less than 40 minutes long) and not a particularly good one. Two genuine keepers ("Devocíon," "Tu Boca") and one mildly diverting novelty ("Gordita") out of 15 is not nearly enough to make Sale el Sol worth your money.


Jonathan Bogart said...

Dizzee Rascal forgotten? He's had four number-one songs in the last two years. In the UK, so I suppose it doesn't count, but just because the critics have stopped overpraising him doesn't mean he's not relevant. Shakira's chasing a global audience, not a US one.

Phil Freeman said...

Yeah, my focus is on the US and over here he's gone from this week's hot new thing to long-forgotten cultural footnote.

Luis Munoz Sadeghi said...

"Addicted To You" is not an English song.

If anybody was curious as to how much effort you put into seriously reviewing Shakira's album, this is a clear giveaway that you skimmed the surface, heavily inserted your negative bias, and typed up words to give the impression that you legitimately reviewed her music.

"Addicted To You" is a Spanish song. There is only 1 line in the chorus that is in English. The great rest of the song is in Spanish.

I also found it amusing how you just dismissed "Waka Waka." It's one of the biggest songs of the year throughout the world and you can't even offer a positive or negative evaluation of it.

Terrible review.

I'll stick with Entertainment Weekly's "A" rating of the album as well as All Music Guide's 4.5/5 Star rating.

Phil Freeman said...

Two comments were deleted. One at the commenter's request, and one because it depended on the previous comment - without the one, the other had no meaning.