Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Album Review: She Wolf

It’s very clear from the first beats of She Wolf that I am not listening to the Shakira that I’ve come to know and love. It seems that Shakira has traded her blatantly Latin beats and influences for twitchy eletrcopop. Although this switch might disappoint some hardcore fans, this reinvention is a good thing. She Wolf is a remarkable pop album, because of the way each of its nine songs (twelve if you include the translated songs) work together cohesively to redefine Shakira’s sound while still remaining true to her previous efforts. Don’t worry, Shakira hasn’t gone anywhere. She just sounds a little different

On She Wolf, Shakira is constantly on the prowl. Sex is a very prominent theme of the disc, and Shakira rhapsodizes the subject with her signature vocal ticks. She coos, growls, moans, and whispers her way through various lusty situations. On the title track, Shakira claims that all women contain wild animal that’s itching to escape and ravage unsuspecting men. On the excellent second single, Did it Again, Shakira chastises herself for succumbing to a dangerous man, yet it’s clear that she loved every second of passion with him. What elevates this from a Flo Rida song is that Shakira, no matter how love hurts her, seems to be in charge of her sexuality. She never preaches dependence. A she wolf needs no man.

As I write this, I do feel like there’s one potential exception to the point of my previous paragraph. The final song (before the Spanish translations kick in) is Mon Amour, an extremely spiteful song about Shakira’s ex-lover. She cries that she’s “fragile” and that “you broke my heart.” This might seem like a contradiction to what I just wrote, but the real message of the song seems to be that even though he broke Shakira’s heart, he’ll come crawling back to her. She won’t subvert herself to him. However, the real reason I bring this up is to segue into another important aspect of this album: the lyrics.

When the title track was released as the first single, I instantly preferred the Spanish version of the song. The lyrics were more poetic and logical. I was unimpressed with the awkward phrases in the English translation. However, I realized that this “kitschy” English was a constant theme of the disc—one that I appreciated as a deliberate effort. You see, to the American market, Shakira represents Latin flavor. However, a good deal of that has disappeared from the production of these tracks. A few retain some instrumentations and phrases that evoke older Shakira songs, but most do not. In other words, the lyrics constantly remind the listener of Shakira’s Columbian roots. Mon Amour is this most extreme example of this. “And every night I pray that you don’t knock her up/cause I still want to be the mother of your child.” Somehow Shakira’s delivery makes that line seem a bit awkward—entertainingly so. Moments like that remind the listener of Shakira’s foreign origin.

Overall, She Wolf is odd, sexy, and ultimately very entertaining. To me, Shakira has finally proven that she can conquer the world in both English and Spanish. All hail the She Wolf

Rating: 4/5 stars

Savage Songs: Loba, Did It Again, Gypsy, Spy

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