Sexy singer Shakira returns to the music scene with her latest, self-titled album–her first since becoming a mother last year. Though she’s not quite the pop culture ingenue she was when she emerged in the late ’90s/early 2000s, the booty-shaking beauty is still quite the compelling artist. So it’s a shame that so much of what makes Shakira “Shakira” gets lost on Shakira. It’s obvious that on this particular release, her follow-up to 2010’s Sale El Sol, Shakira is attempting to make as commercial a record as possible, something that captures the sound of American pop music circa 2014. But it’s buffed away all of her little idiosyncrasies in favor of generic ear candy.
There’s shiny, big-budget production from established hitmakers like Timbaland, Dr. Luke and the Neptunes. And there is a handful of guest stars that pop up–seemingly just to get the check and show support. Shakira’s co-judge on “The Voice,” Blake Shelton practically phones in the vocal on “Medicine,” a disappointing duet that generates no heat or passion from either performer. “Empire” falls apart under the weight of it’s own pomposity, while “Dare (La La La)” never feels like anything more than a by-the-numbers club track.
But when you have this much talent on a project, some things just have to work. There are highlights, to be sure, but even they never quite seem to be the home-runs Shakira so desperately needs. Rihanna makes a solid-if-not-spectacular appearance on “Can’t Remember To Forget You,” a groovy track that showcases Shakira’s distinct voice well. And the soundscapes of “Spotlight” may be the most interesting production on the album.
Shakira is the sound of a woman basking in the glow of love and motherhood, but it doesn’t really effectively capture Shakira’s bliss in a way that feels authentic. Her happiness is obvious in the lyrics, but it’s a shame that such earnestness gets lost against a backdrop of music that seems so forced and calculated. Not an awful record, but she can do a lot better.