Driving with Shakira

By: Marcelo Báez

Oh Shakira, I know we’ve had our differences, with me calling you a sellout and all that, but our silly quarrels have always been in good fun. I mean, you did go from being a pseudo-alternative girl who’d write interesting lyrics while challenging outdated social norms, to rolling around inside a cage in a skintight leotard. So, yeah, you did sell out. But, because you continued to put out catchy, unconventional hits, I could never stay mad at you. In fact, I’ve always been secretly fascinated by your career. No one else from Latinoland has gone from making terribly tragic pedophile pop to becoming a world-known megastar, and that deserves some recognition, no?

Shakira., your self-titled 10th studio record, was released earlier this week, and it’s definitely the whitest, most American-sounding thing you’ve ever put out. Which is a letdown, because a lot of your music has been edgy and unique—at least for a pop star of your caliber, that is. You’ve achieved this uniqueness by summoning collaborators (El Cata, Alejandro Sanz, Gustavo Cerati) that the Britneys and J. Los of the music world probably know nothing about. But now you’ve taken a different approach and the results are underwhelming.

In a nutshell, Shakira. is generic American pop by the book. The record Katy Perry didn’t record, but easily could have. “Dare (La La La),” the first song, is an EDM track where you play the role of a drunken, exhibitionist party girl (“I dare you to kiss me with everyone watching”). It’s a song for a 19-year-old spring breaker written by you, a 37-year-old mom. And thanks to its reggae-flavored verses, “Can’t Remember to Forget You” is the most experimental song on the whole record, but that’s not saying much.

Listen, Shak, you don’t have to play up the Latina angle to make good or interesting music (“Loba,” for example, was a solid electro pop tune, and an honest hit). But if somebody told me songs like “Spotlight” and “Broken Record” were written by Taylor Swift, the blandest pop star America has been cursed with, I’d be none the wiser.

Speaking of bland, I’m assuming you wanted to broaden your appeal by reaching a demographic you have nothing to do with, but the world’s entire supply of penicillin isn’t enough to kill the infection that “Medicine,” your collaboration with Voice cohost Blake Shelton, spread inside my ears. Also, lyrics such as “I used to think there was no God / But then you looked at me with your blue eyes / And my agnosticism turned to dust,” off the song “23,” almost gave me permanent tinnitus. (Yeah, it’s in reference to your son, I get it. But it’s still terrible.)

As expected, your team did a spectacular job with the technical side of the production, which is squeaky clean, loud and flawless. But the best engineers in the world can’t polish a turd and that is one big, lumpy fact.

I’m terribly sorry, but I’ll have to remember to forget this one. Now let’s pound it, get out of here, and, um, would you mind dropping me off at my ENTs place? It’s just down the street.

Shakira. by Shakira, available now

Marcelo Baéz is a writer, DJ, and musician based in NYC. When he's not producing "Rico Suave" parties, he releases music under P3CULIAR.