The joys of love and being a new mother have clearly colored the emotional melodrama that is splashed all over Shakira’s new self-titled album. While her 2009 album “She Wolf” was a robotic romp through club music, “Shakira” is a surprisingly robust folk-rock adventure, complete with all of the unexpected musical detours that made Shakira famous from the get-go.
The second track, “Empire,” bursts with a gritty chorus of “oohs,” a sneakily restrained verse and just enough subtle synths to make the track register as modern. In reality, it sounds like 1990s alternative rock, and nothing could be sweeter for Shakira than a return to her rocker roots, an avenue she hasn’t explored since her 2001 English debut album “Laundry Service.” “Empire” is just one example of how Shakira’s relationship with Gerard Pique and 1-year-old son Milan have impacted her music.
“23” is a minimalist guitar ballad where Shakira coos, “I used to think that there was no God/ but then you looked at me with your blue eyes/ and my agnosticism turned into dust.” Lyrics like those in “23” demonstrate that Shakira has not abandoned her knack for captivating lyrics, for they draw a listener in with their lack of tact or fear of trying too hard. Her confession “I’ve told you 700 times/ I don’t need to keep looking/ my search is done” on “Broken Record” is candid and revealing. She also uses the phrase “our fingers are stuck in the socket” to denote the urgency to make a first move on the dance-anthem “Dare (La La La).” These show that Shakira and her team of writers prove they do not shy away from grand metaphors. This makes every song seem triumphantly original, even after multiple spins.
On the production front, “Shakira” keeps one foot in folk rock and the other in variations of rock seen throughout music history. While “Spotlight” shines with 1980s new wave synths, “You Don’t’ Care About Me” is a reggae masterpiece that makes the album carry a distinctive vintage sound that captivates the listener.
As a whole, “Shakira” is a solid album, with a rock-filled soul and an unrestrained spirit. This is a refreshing reminder of how entertaining it is to listen to an entire album in one sitting when the performer is invested in the finished product.