Shakira

Fijacion Oral, Volume One (Epic)

Rappers and punks take pains to make their rebellious postures seem offhand. Shakira, meanwhile, doesn't draw attention to her nonconformist tendencies -- but make no mistake, she just don't give a fuck. The Colombian superstar gave her 2001 crossover album (Laundry Service) and subsequent stadium-hopping stint ("Tour of the Mongoose") bizarre yet covertly philosophical titles, then stunned unsuspecting audiences with graphic war footage at her shows. Now she sets herself up for countless cheap-shot jokes with Fijacion Oral, a concept she illustrates on the cover with a breast-feeding pose. Instead of giving her English-speaking audience priority, she boldly released the español effort first, with the sequel, Oral Fixation, set to arrive in November. Shakira makes exquisite use of her operatic range during the gorgeous ballads. During the playfully passionate upbeat material, she dabbles with dancehall, ends an accordion-laced number with a cha-cha-cha flourish, mischievously roars over "My Sharona"-style new-wave riffs, and plunges guilelessly into dense disco. Originally miscast as the Colombian Britney, she wields her dynamic voice with less self-conscious delicacy than any octave-hopping artist since fellow eccentric Nina Hagen.

 
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