December 10, 2009

Shakira - She Wolf

What? Shakira? Surely this must be a joke. Come on, where are the blistering solos, head crushing riffs, throat-shredding vocals, and mosh pit insanity? There is none of that here. There certainly must have been some sort of mix up in the shipping department. Shakira was surely meant to be Shadows Fall, right?

In all honesty, no. You read the title right, I did indeed acquire a copy of Shakira's latest release with intentions of reviewing it. I will admit that it is definitely an odd choice for this metal fan to be taking a side trip into the land of pop. Now, you may think this is a blow to my metal cred. You may be right. However, I would counter that the music fan should be able to recognize and appreciate talent across the board, I am sure the majority of you agree. On top of that, exploring other styles add to the breadth of one's experience and may prove useful as you listen to music in other areas. It is definitely something to consider. On the other hand, its Shakira! What's not to like?

Shakira is a fascinating artist. Her career began in her native Colombia at the age of 13, where she recorded albums and starred in a Spanish soap opera. This means she has nearly 20 years of experience performing and recording as she nears her 33rd birthday. In addition to her early start, she has become quite the worldwide sensation, recording albums in both Spanish and English. Throughout her career she has had a very hands on approach to her work. She co-writes much of her music and does not seem to have any desire to cater to the whims of the mainstream. Sure, she definitely falls within the confines of the mainstream in her overall style, but when you drill down you find an artist who plays be her own rules and is as unconventional as they come.


She-Wolf sees Shakira making a rather drastic change in her sound. It still sounds distinctly "Shakira" but there is no confusing this with Oral Fixation Vol 2. (yes, I have that one too). Where her previous albums had a distinct pop-rock influence, this album sees her targeting her music for the dance floot. To that end, she has teamed with the likes of The Neptunes and Wyclef Jean (whom she also worked with on "Hips Don't Lie") to give her music that necessary hot beat punch up.

Now, I am about as far from the club scene as they come, but sometimes all you want is a beat to bounce to around the house. Yeah, that sounds lame, but you cannot deny it. This album fills the bill with the bouncy beats with a Latin spin. Pair that up with Shakira's distinctive, one of a kind voices and you have a recipe for an intriguing musical experience.

It is impossible not to groove a little to She-Wolf. At the same time it seems like Shakira has upped the ante when it comes to oddness. Her lyrics take on a bizarre poetic quality as she wonders where the men have gone in "Men in This Town." Elsewhere, she compares herself to a lycanthrope and an office coffee machine. Let us also not forget her threat to steal and where your clothes if they fit! She is definitely unique in the way only she can turn a phrase from oddity to alluring pop-poetry. Not to mention she provides the most successful wolf howls since Warren Zevon sang the chorus to "Werewolves of London."

Unlike so many pop stars out there, Shakira takes it to the next level and makes it art. It may not always be good art, but it is a step above the typical and provides a greater level of interest. She does not bow down to convention and she makes sure that the final product is soaked in her personality.

While this does not fall within my primary realm of interest, I cannot help but like it. There is something about it that makes it nearly perfect. She puts it all out on the line, does not seem to care if you like it or not and will not compromise her vision. If the music does not prove that, just take a look at her videos.

Seriously, who else could have made a video like this:

Bottomline. Plenty of strong songs fill She-Wolf. Pop this in, press play and groove to a singular personality that is Shakira. There is no one else quite like her. I cannot imagine anyone but her putting this out and that is a good thing. Do yourself a favor, step out of your comfort zone and give this a shot.


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