Cousin Franz: “Ojos Asi,” (the last track in “Donde Estan Los Ladrones?”), took us far east of Barranquilla, Colombia. “Objection” (the first track in “Laundry Service”) is meant to take us South, to the pampas of Argentina and the passionate, deadly tangos of Astor Piazzolla. That Shakira quickly manages to stray into Gwen Stefani territory instead is emblematic of “Laundry Service,” an English-language debut that in its (highly successful) attempt to grab Top 40 attention, doesn’t linger on any one sound or style.
As angry as she is on Track 1, Shakira sheds away all animosity on Track 2 to deliver one of the most romantic pop songs of the 2000s, “Underneath Your Clothes.” She uses every trick she learned from years of studying Steven Tyler’s rock-and-roll poses (if “Dream On” isn’t one of Shakira’s top ten monster ballads, I’ll eat her scarves.)
“Whenever, Wherever,” perhaps the most forcedly “exotic” song Shakira had done up to that point, watches her become a genuine international threat, (in the video, her honest hips cause several major natural disasters, from animal stampedes to dust storms to earthquakes.) This song- and, depending on how adventurous your radio presets are, its Spanish version- was inescapable in the summer of 2001, but a real kick in the gut to Shakira’s former fans. For full effect, American listeners of a certain age should try to imagine Tori Amos getting a huge hit with “All About the Bass.” Yes, it IS an appalling hypothetical. “Laundry Service” has aged well, but the unimpressed contemporary critical response had its logic.
That Shakira can be a little on the jealous and possessive side is made manifest on many of her songs (let’s be charitable and call her “passionate” and “committed”). Had “Rules” been delivered by a man, no doubt it would have provoked a billion think-pieces about her “problematically creepy” relationship rules, like: “You can laugh, only if you laugh with me,” “You can cry, only to cry for me,” “Use your eyes, only to look at me,” “Use your mouth, only to kiss my lips.” Give it a slower pace and less joyful instrumentation, and you’ve got The Police’s “Every Breath You Take.” But since the song IS delivered by Shakira… Let’s face it, if she lured me into her untagged pervo-van and made unholy use of me in her sex dungeon for 12 straight months, I would call that “a really good year.”
Is that “Michelle”? Well, it IS at first; “The One” starts with a Beatlesian strum, does a little “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and even indulges in a “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf” organ solo, but ultimately winds up mimicking yet another Aerosmith ballad. (Blame it on the pervasive influence of Aerosmith collaborators Desmond Child and Glen Ballard.) A perfectly beautiful song uglified by a reminder “to buy more thongs/ and write more happy songs.”
“Fool” starts with a charming 90’s vibe, (a Natalie Merchant impression seems imminent), but the simplicity of the lyrics is saddening. The former incarnation of Shakira could reference Botero and Jean-Paul Sartre with confidence; THIS version utters botched lines like “with my tears, you’ll make a sea a desert,” and you want to take her aside and politely point out the lyrics should read “with my tears, you’ll turn a desert into a sea,” or “with my tears, you’ll make a sea OUT of a desert”- in short, the opposite of what she’s condemned to say. “Ready for the Good Times” doesn’t say much; it appropriates Donna Summer-ish disco, adds a Miami Sound Machine vibe, and, crucially, allows Shakira a chance to rest her voice during live concerts. She’s not slacking off though: she danced the hell out of this one in the early 2000s.
It’s not like she forgot how to write. There’s two superior examples of her song-writing skills here, “Que Me Quedes Tu” and “Te Dejo Madrid,” both aimed at the Spanish market – LITERALLY “Spanish,” in the case of the latter.
Ultimately, “Laundry Service” finds Shakira trying too hard to impress her range of abilities upon the American public: “I can do Argentinean Tango! Peruvian Pan Flutes! Andalusian Yodeling! Lebanese Belly-Dancing! And, yes, good old American Rock and Roll!” It’s as if she were haphazardly hurling the contents of her colorful wardrobe in our direction, because nothing quite fits, making this both a pop triumph and a conceptual mess, (not that those two things need to be exclusive). The collection is completed by an English version of “Ojos Asi” (“Eyes Like Yours”) and the Spanish-versions of “Objection” and “Whenever, Wherever.”
Trent: “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains”? How did that ever happen? Maybe some dude was being all smooth at Make-Out Alley, and then he got slapped, so he was like: “Oh oooops, I’m sorry, I thought those were the ALPS and the APENNINES! It’s an understandable geographical mix-up.”
Beatricia: It’s depressing. That and “next to her cheap silicone I look minimal.” Clearly Shakira has an unwarranted inferiority complex. It’s a little off-putting to hear one of the most desirable and desired women in the planet flaunt her nit-picking body issues. Chica, some of us have actual massive cellulite issues to deal with.
Tracey: That’s how hard the media stomps down on female self-esteem, see!
Hank: I’m so glad I’m a man and don’t have to any media-induced self-esteem problems whatsoever. In unrelated news, the entire cast of the “Magic Mike” movies needs to die immediately, and they can drag Tom Hardy to hell with them. (Fluffy can stay, though.)
Tracey: I was with Shakira all the way until that “Te Dejo Madrid” video. As a member of PETASS, (and here I have to specify that PETASS, the “People-for-the-Ethical-Treatment-of-Animals Sympathizer Society,” is in no way affiliated, endorsed, or even acknowledged by PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) I cannot give Cherries to any video that attempts to glamorize bullfighting, and I wish I could unsee Shakira’s passive endorsement of this barbaric so-called pastime. Doesn’t she have any empathy? I doubt she would like it if a bunch of toreros were trying to put their big sticks on her!
Trent: …. Ha. Hehehe.
Grandpa Felicius: I believe those big sticks are commonly referred to as “varas” or “banderillas.”
Blurbarella: “Passionate, deadly– international threat– from animals.– Unholy– Wolf– Incarnation,– Haphazardly Hurling– The Alps and the Apennines– In the planet– Stomps down– the Entire–Madrid.”
4 out of 6 Cherries