Shakira’s El Do­rado is a sum­mer treat for her Latino fans

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Shakira El Do­rado (Sony) When Shakira re­leased the sin­gle La Bi­ci­cleta last sum­mer, a jaunty duet with her pop­u­lar com­pa­triot Car­los Vives, it of­fered a big clue about her up­com­ing LP. That song is “a trib­ute to Colom­bia”, said the singer and, a year on, her 11th al­bum con­tin­ues the theme. El Do­rado is Shakira’s proud­est in­vo­ca­tion of her Ama­zo­nian roots.

The ti­tle refers to Colom­bia’s lost ‘golden city’, and a mys­te­ri­ous marketing strat­egy pre­ceded this record: fans be­came dig­i­tal con­quis­ta­dors, search­ing for track-re­lated trea­sures. Such talk of golden eras now feels ten­ta­tively ap­pro­pri­ate, given that Colom­bia be­gan a heal­ing process last year af­ter decades of dis­as­trous in­fight­ing.

Shakira de­serves hearty tributes her­self, hav­ing long been Colom­bia’s most recog­nised cul­tural am­bas­sador. This year marks the 15th an­niver­sary of the break­through al­bum, Laun­dry Ser­vice, which launched her be­yond Latin Amer­ica. That record drew crit­i­cism back home for its English lyrics, but this re­lease – much of it sung in Span­ish – largely tar­gets the Latin au­di­ence.

In­deed, El Do­rado breaks new ground for this global icon. La Bi­ci­cleta, which is about bik­ing around child­hood haunts, uses lo­cal in­stru­ments – and sur­pris­ingly the first time Shakira has col­lab­o­rated with an­other Colom­bian vo­cal­ist. She show­cases more coun­try­men here: the Medellin-born heart-throb Maluma – “pretty boy”, ac­cord­ing to Shakira – duets on two tracks, no­tably the elec­tronic dance­floor stom­per Chan­taje, an­other huge-sell­ing Latin sin­gle.

A cou­ple of songs do feel like con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions, par­tic­u­larly the list­less Perro Fiel, which fea­tures the Puerto Ri­can reg­gae­ton act Nicky Jam. But the al­bum’s His­panic fo­cus al­lows its star to have some fun, rather than fol­low North Amer­i­can chart trends.

Amar­illo could be a Span­ish cover of Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach, be­fore a pump­ing Europop cho­rus kicks in. The clos­ing piano bal­lad Toneladas is beau­ti­fully un­der­stated, and though Coconut Tree is sung in English, it chan­nels Aus­tralian syn­th­pop­pers Em­pire of the Sun and is ad­mirably quirky. “Make it like it used to be, give me a time ma­chine,” she sings, long­ing for a per­sonal El Do­rado.

Else­where, there are club cuts to suit most speak­ers: the fab­u­lous When a Woman and the fiery She Wolf. Me Enamoré is a dance­floor-filler in any lan­guage, while Comme Moi comes in two ver­sions: English, fea­tur­ing Cana­dian reg­gae band Magic!, and the su­pe­rior An­glo-French orig­i­nal with Parisian rap­per Black M.

What­ever the lan­guage be, her hits don’t lie.

Si Hawkins art­slife@then­ational.ae

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