"Oral Fixation, Vol. 2" (Epic)
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Halfway through her new English-language album (due in stores Tuesday), Colombia's crossover queen reveals that she has grasped the cruel fickleness of pop culture celebrity. In "Animal City" she warns, "But someday when you fail / They'll put you on sale / And buy you by the inch."
That's a wise reality check for the follow-up to her breakthrough English-language debut, 2001's "Laundry Service," which sold 13 million copies worldwide and turned the sexy singer-songwriter into the (dyed) blond bombshell of the Latin Explosion. Producing a new album is one thing; duplicating a pop phenomenon is quite another.
For starters, the new CD lacks another "Whenever, Wherever," the Top 10 hit from the previous album. Not to mention the video displaying the star's pelvic wonders. That said, though, "Oral Fixation" is a stronger work as a whole, with sharper edges and darker undertones. Shakira has grown a little more cynical at 28, both about love ("Don't Bother") and the human condition ("How Do You Do").
Musically, this work stands on its own, squarely within the mainstream of U.S. pop and rock with a lot less Latin flavor. Like all her work, the music, which she co-wrote with others, is far superior to the lyrics, which she wrote herself, complete with her inimitable Shakira-isms ("I'd like to be the owner of the zipper on your jeans").
Shakira is at her best here in confessional songs such as "Costume Makes the Clown," which refers to her new natural-woman look. In "Dreams for Plans," she aches for a simpler, innocent time before fame, when "there was nothing we could sell or buy."
Paradoxically, in reassessing and even shunning aspects of her success, Shakira may have found a way to sustain it.
-- Agustin Gurza