By Carlos Reyes
Milquetoast. That’s the official word Club Fonograma’s staff is using to describe Shakira’s latest album Sale El Sol, the seventh album in her triumphant career. There’s a shared anxiety among music journalists to legitimize true divas, we do our own share with Shakira. The Colombian global star has created a career of unexpected turns (musically), always keeping an ambitious eye to get into the new trend, and adding her peculiar persona to anything she gets her hands on. Shakira is like the one hot girl in your class generation, who is also very nerdy (that justifies that cool The xx’s “Islands” cover). Ok, not Zooey Deschanel hot nerdy, but tidy enough to make good music through/by her sensuality. We also know her career is inconsistent, mostly on her atrocious English-language albums. Sale El Sol breaks the rule; it’s her first bad Spanish language album, aside from a few numbers, it’s inefficient, milquetoast, almost colorless.
When Shakira delivered the amazing Fijacion Oral Vol.1 she argued she was ‘trapped’ on a line between Bocanada (Gustavo Cerati) and Velvetina (Miguel Bose), she clearly found her escape with “Loba”, perhaps her finest single yet. While following the disco strings would’ve been the obvious choice, Shakira announced she was going back to her roots, a place not even Shakira is sure about. When her fantastic single “Loca” was unveiled, everyone assumed she was coming back to her ‘Latin’ roots; unfortunately, she comes back to an era of uncooked melodies, like in Pies Descalzos, except it’s not very charming this time around. The title track opens the album with a very sober Shakira picking up on her career-motif of love making people blind and stupid; somehow, she always finds a way to make it work. In “Sale El Sol”, every ounce of content is set loose to a level of self-reflective leisure.
Like most of her first singles, “Loca” is completely misleading to what’s really in store, but before getting into the depressing part, let’s highlight how amazing “Loca” is. This is the kind of mainstream hit any pop lover secretly hopes for, a song fully unattached of the pop sound (as a genre), and picking up an out-of-nowhere sound like Merengue to extend pop music even more. Rarely has Shakira sounded this good, rarely any of her peers get this sexy in and out, dragged & sweaty. Only Shakira is able to envision herself and her men as 4-leg animals over and over again, always keeping it sexy & cute. Too bad most of the rest of the album manifests so very little; the lyrics are all restrained, and the music is uninspired, only nearby to fill its purpose.
People have been salivating for a Shakira-Calle 13 collaboration, and “Gordita” finally does it. The song is not bad at all, just a bit underwhelming considering how epic it could’ve been. After dissecting in many parts, we know what’s missing, Visitante’s magic touch in the music. Talking about Residente, he shares album credits with Cuban-American rapper Pitbull (in “Rabiosa”), who he has dissed via Twitter several times. Gustavo Cerati (get well soon) co-wrote and produced “Tu Boca” and “Devocion”, two pieces in which Shakira accomplishes to sound like the rocker she’s always strike to become, despite that, they’re hardly memorable beyond its electrified riffs. Sale El Sol could be divided in two; one half with the fun dance jams, the other, with poor-to-middling tracks as little stimulating as "Waka Waka" and 97% of her English songs.