GALLERY: Shakira's many wonderful incarnationsCritics have started drawing comparisons between the ever-improving Shakira and the Alanis of Jagged Little Pill era. Besides the obvious likening of their distinctive vocal idiosyncrasies, the critics may be on to something.
On Oral Fixation vol. 2 (Vol. 1 was a Spanish-language album, remember?) a naked Shakira holds an apple and delivers an expressionless stare from the cover. It is an Eve pose that somehow conveys both a sexiness and an earthiness - both of which pervade her particular brand of pop on Oral Fixation.
As pop goes, Shakira's is very near the top of the modern pile. To think of it as "pop" in the MTV sense is risky, because Oral Fixation Vol. 2 offers so much variation in style and approach.
True, some of her vocal deliveries are a little jarring to those more used to supersassy Britney or softy-punk Avril or even hyperfunky Beyonce. But those aren't really even Shakira's contemporaries. There's a more urgent sincerity in Shakira's work, such as you'd find in singer-songwriters of adult contemporary rock like Alanis, or even Tori Amos. Some would even say there's a tinge of lunacy to her work, which is amusingly true of those artists, too.
Shakira's particular pop also remains faithful to the idea that the music stays accessible and easy, while it edges toward the "rock" side of the platform. It blends bold ideas like sung excerpts from the Lord's Prayer ("How Do You Do") with modern pop rock riffs and structures. Even a guest turn from Carlos Santana ("Illegal") works better than on his own bloated album partnerships.
The album rarely hints at a big dance number, either... Fixation seems happier to just reflect a softer, more tender side to modern pop. All of which adds up to a pleasant entry into the modern music platform.
There are flaws... some of the lyrical phrases don't seem to run quite so slickly; and every now and again the album feels underproduced. But that's not a critical thing.
Shakira has put herself in fine company here... where such profile albums would normally boast the likes of The Neptunes or The Matrix in production, this one has only Shakira herself as producer - with Rick Rubin in a business role as executive producer. She has produced a good album, but you get the scary feeling that it isn't even yet Shakira's best.
- Anton Marshall
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