Shakira, 'Shakira': Track-By-Track Review

88 Billboard Rating

Love, motherhood, rock roots, a dab of country here, a drop of reggae there, and of course, Latin dance rhythms. Shakira's "Shakira," her first studio album in four years, may at first blush sound as if it could be a disparate affair, but instead, it's a cohesive, organic set, with roots that lie mostly in melodic pop-rock and unexpected touches from multiple influences. There's not much Latin-ness to be found here (despite two tracks in Spanish: "Loca por ti" and the Spanish version of "Can't Remember to Forget You"), but it doesn't matter. The album works on the strength of the songs.

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Indeed, Shakira's last two English-language sets so prominently featured her suggestive, uptempo dance fare that her origins as a pop/rock singer-songwriter -- one with a fine appreciation for melody and even finer appreciation for expressive lyrics -- got lost. "Shakira"  is a much finer piece of work, the bulk of which is widely divergent from the sound and message of first single "Can't Remember to Forget You."

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Instead, get ready for a set of convincing, honest music, on which the Colombian star often unabashedly professes her love for boyfriend Gerard Pique. Perhaps love is what makes this album soar.

Which songs on "Shakira" are absolute highlights? Check out our track-by-track breakdown of the singer's latest full-length.
 
1. Dare (La La La)

You wanted uptempo dance? Here it is, with Brazilian beats and a touch of electronica, just in time for World Cup.

2. Can't Remember To Forget You feat. Rihanna

The reggae-tinged single actually sounded pretty playful… until we saw the suggestive video. Regardless of your interpretation, this is a track that grows on you with every listen, pushed on by the beat and the confluence of Rihanna and Shakira's vocals (who knew their timbres could be so similar?). Watch out for the killer bridge.
       
3. Empire

Second single "Empire" is a beauty of a rock ballad that begins pared-down -- with vocals over solo piano in an intro reminiscent of Tori Amos -- and then explodes in a kaleidoscope of sound that goes hand-in-hand with the lyrics ("Like the empires of the world unite, we are alive"). No, it's not over the top; it's just really good.
 
4. You Don't Care About Me

Shakira has always been good at singing about spite, and "You Don't Care About Me" appears to include telling lines ("Should have never helped you become/So powerful, But I saw a champion in your eyes") about ex Antonio de la Rua -- except Shakira didn't write this one. Regardless, we believe all of it, and the syncopated beats and slightly retro 60s sound impart both nostalgia and an "I don't care either" vibe.

5. Cut Me Deep feat. Magic!

The reggae beat, steel drums and big horns pick up steam and devolve into a mix of ska and rock. If any track is a marked departure for Shakira, this would be it.

6. Spotlight

"Spotlight" has all the makings of a heavy rock track, with power guitars commanding the track until Shakira's voice comes on, earnest and exposed, all the better to deliver the crushing message: "Been busy for a while, laying golden eggs/Some just want your money, or whatever they can take/But you are your own man, don't need anyone else/You're here because you want me, and not for what I make."

7. Broken Record

Just like "Empire" showcased Shakira's voice over piano, "Broken Record" does the same over guitar, and then breaks into a power ballad with grandiose strings that lend depth to this love song ("And I've said it 700 times, I don't need to keep looking … you are the one").
 
8. Medicine feat. Blake Shelton

"The Voice" co-coaches Blake Shelton and Shakira waste no time trading verses in this country/pop blend that somehow manages to work just fine.

9. 23

The first full verse and chorus of "23" — a track she wrote for boyfriend Gerard Piqué (the "23" alludes to how old he was at the time they met) — is only vocals and guitar, but eventually, the bass, percussion and strings come into the mix. The overall effect is one of innocence and vulnerability.

10. The One Thing

Written for baby Milan by Shakira with Nasri Atweh, this mid-tempo pop track happily resists the urge to be too obvious. We still get the message ("You are the one thing that I got right, it's a fickle world, it's a fickle world/ You turned the darkness into sunlight, I'm a lucky girl, yeah I'm a lucky girl"), and the bridge provides the element of childish play.

11. Nunca Me Acuerdo de Olvidarte

The Spanish version of "Cant Remember To Forget you," performed only by Shakira.

12. Loca Por Ti

The ultimate homage to Pique, "Loca" is the Spanish translation of "Boig per tu," a track in Catalan that was a favorite of Pique's.