Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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  • Laundry Service [Epic, 2001] A-
  • Fijación Oral Vol. 1 [Epic, 2005]
  • Oral Fixation Vol. 2 [Epic, 2005]
  • She Wolf [Epic, 2009] A-
  • Shakira [RCA, 2014] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Laundry Service [Epic, 2001]
Vulgar, confident, full of fun, this is the Cher album Cher never made--must be that Middle Eastern blood. Christian Middle East it may be (Cher's Armenian, Shakira Lebanese), but the intensity of the vibrato is more Islamic than Iberian. On the other hand, the stylistic appetite of this Colombian superstar is pure rock en Espaol--nothing like Andean-where-she's-Caribbean panpipes for a soupon of inauthentic authenticity. How freely she deploys her freshly mastered English--the corners the Anglo-Saxon consonants put on her Latin gush, the slightly misbegotten metaphors, the awkward, carnal, unhesitatingly female chauvinist "Underneath your clothes/There's an endless story/There's the man I chose/There's my territory." And as you might expect, her voice swallows contradictions as easily as it switches timbres. A-

Fijación Oral Vol. 1 [Epic, 2005]
[2005 Dean's List: 74]

Oral Fixation Vol. 2 [Epic, 2005]
[2005 Dean's List: 17]

She Wolf [Epic, 2009]
Finally, a much-delayed album is spiffed up instead of diddled around. The four songs added after it was finished lift the back end decisively: the first collab does Kid Cudi a favor, the second accepts one from Lil Wayne, and the two in Spanish come with her strongest melodies (translations, please!). Not that the rest is flat, exactly; "She Wolf" and "Spy" warble as winningly as anything on "Oral Fixation." But though I love her vibrato and hear the unidiomatic lilt of her English as a species of music, even I often felt in need of more. Admittedly, though, it wasn't just the extra tracks that swayed me. It was all the different ways she promised to love me. With Shakira, you figure different really means different. A-

Shakira [RCA, 2014]
This album finally made me its own in a Puerto Rican traffic jam, where I felt compelled to pull Tom Z out of the slot because I needed a bigger lift. The Latin setting fed this decision. But Z is no gringo, and the hottest Latin track here, including the two in Spanish at the end, is the Dr. Luke confection that climaxes the four-song takeoff I was craving--a musical jam that, as I'd hoped, brightened my mood until well after the traffic jam had dissolved. Later Shakira gets more pensive, as is her warbling wont. But right up to "Loco Por Ti" she works well-meaning variations on her special brand of chipper sentimentality--seldom deep, but so useful in getting one through life's smaller crises. A-

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