Thankfully, Shakira has put out the #2 album of the year easy, thus saving me the effort of trying to wade through a wash o' winks coming from the general direction of The-Dream (my #1).
To recap its awesomeness:
♥ The batty lyrics to "She Wolf" are actually restrained compared to the Spanish-language version, which looks like this according to Alex O. at the Jukebox:
Who has never desired a werewolf goddess in the ardour of a romantic night? My howls are the call – I want a domesticated wolf. Finally, I have found a perfect solution to erase the guilt. I do not think I will stay by your side, watching TV and listening to excuses. Life has given me a voracious hunger, and you only give me candy. I am going out, with my legs and my youth, even if jealousy kills you.
There’s a she-wolf in the closet, and she wants to get out. Let her devour the neighbourhood before you go to sleep.
I have magnetic stillettos to drive the herd crazy. The moon, full like a fruit, neither gives advice nor listens to it. I bring with me a special radar to locate bachelors, and in case I get in a jam, I have the firemen’s phone number. Neither prettyboys, nor Divos, nor rich kids. I know what I want – to have fun and behave badly in the arms of a gentleman.
When it is almost 1 AM, the she-wolf, in heat, greets the moon, unsure whether to go down the street, or enter a bar to try her luck. She’s already sat down at a table and is has sight of her prey. Poor guy, caught off guard and not expecting something like this.
♥ Obsession with legs continues on "Long Time," in which Shakira grows longer legs to fasten to your body and travel with you everywhere. The accompaniment is fairytale reggaeton w/ clarinet + two-tone whistle solo.
♥ The strings on this album are just unstoppable. Run the gamut from slick indie disco in the Matthew Herbert vein (maybe? Don't know Herbert very well actually) to total Eurodisco chintz. Didn't take Wyclef for, um, relevant at all, but his collab is a giddy little thing of joy, Shakira approximating a trumpet stuck in her nose, subtle string-stabs and the occasional chromatic flourish giving the whole thing a gauziness to temper the goof. Listen here.
♥ Quite enjoy her "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone" rewrite, which includes a notably Ashlee-esque line of ambiguous self-questioning rubbing up against super-D-U-M "Matt Damon's not meant for me" as repeated hook: "Where are all the men in this town? What's a girl supposed to do? Did they all run off when they knew that I was coming 'round?" And then she's so fresh so clean, got the looks and the skin and the thing.
♥ Not sure what Shakira's history with confessionality is (Frank Kogan from 2001: "As is true with most lyricists, she's better frustrated than fulfilled. In the song where she's perpetually chasing the soles of the guy's shoes (and thus eating dirt, she implies), she says, 'God resigned, from hearing my old story.' This is the one line on the album that hits me emotionally"). I know just about jack squat about the rest of Shakira's oeuvre, but I imagine this particular album is similar, fascinatin' frustrations surfacing from general (often endearing and/or oddly resonant) WTFness and cliche. Difference seems to be that this album is a low-flier, no big singles and a noticeable steady groove established right at track two, which begins like you've been thrown into track 6 of the album or something. ("Spy" could have been a good track 2, come to think of it, but I like the sequencing as is.)
♥ Did I mention the strings?
♥ Hey remember when Patrick Wolf's lycanthropy was a thing? THIS IS A HUNDRED TIMES BETTER. (Did he ever say the word "lycanthropy"? Because she does and it's totally not a big deal at all.)
♥ Yeah, that's right, "Why Wait" modified "Gimme More" just enough to avoid a lawsuit. And you know what? That's "Why Wait"'s prerogative and if you try to stop it it will devour everyone in your neighborhood. No idea what the hell Pharrell/Neptunes' game-plan for this album was, and don't care. The production cruises along unassumingly, allowing its Toto homage (sounds like it anyway, on "Good Stuff") and accordions and clarinets and whatever else it wants to wander in to the party without needless red carpet treatment. Oh, hey, what's up transparently-jacked "ey, ey, ey" hook, have a seat.
♥ Maybe every Shakira album IS like this -- I'll find out soon enough as I listen to all of them, I'm guessing. But this album is perfect for a year in which most of my pleasures have been fairly modest: on-par stuff from a consistently great-not-bestest artist would kind of be what I'm expecting (not "looking for," but I have no idea what the hell I'm looking for anymore -- I mean, the Saturdays gave me a real kick in the gut for a half day back there, and I'm feeling Nellie McKay's Doris Day album and rocking out to the least assuming ever(?) Jack White side project and Gorilla Zoe has a spot in my heart after several rap albums that are "better" but not as good, y'know, have passed me by without comment, what's up with all that?).
♥ Oh shit, so if you've been looking for a half-way decent sell-out Interpol song in the past, what, five years?...you'd probably have to buy the NEW SHAKIRA ALBUM. For "Mon Amour." Which kills. "Passengers with destinations to hell, please proceed to your gate. We are ready to board now." And yeah, I think that's Regine Chassagne from the Arcade Fire doing the "oooh-oooh's," pasting "In the Backseat" to close out the album in the overwrought indie stylee. Before the Spanish-version stuff, that is, which is also essential.
♥ So should I learn Spanish and listen to all her Spanish songs and get whole new levels of awesome out of this stuff or what? I mean, I should probably be learning Spanish anyway. Just out of courtesy to the United States.
♥ Oh man, this just blows every other WTFer out of the water this year, because she's not trying too hard for it. I don't even feel totally comfortable quoting her WTF lines, because they are like RAW WTF. "I'm feeling abused like a coffee machine in an office." If The-Dream got within ten feet of that line he'd wink it into oblivion, and Mariah Carey would giggle in the background. And I love The-Dream! But hands off my Shakira simple plezures, please.