Kick-Proof, Sky God, Anise Mouth*: Three by Shakira

My wife lived in Mexico for a while in the early 1990s, so it's thanks to her that I'm a fan of a lot of the artists who were big in D.F. around that time, including Julieta Venegas, Café Tacvba, and Manu Chao, all of whom she and I have seen live in New York.

And though the Colombian/Lebanese superstar Shakira didn't emerge until later that decade, her music also came to my attention courtesy of my wife, who retained the interest in rock en español and related artists (Ozomatli, Lila Downs). Accordingly most of what interests me about Shakira are the distinctive rock en español trimmings of her early work, in particular a trio of bangers on the poorly named Laundry Service record from 2001. Any song that combines big surf guitars with accordion immediately has my attention, but in these cases she more than sustains it.

She kicks the album off in style with "Objection (Tango)," which lays rubbery guitar and toothsome squeeze box over a classic Andalusian cadence (Bm, A, G, F#); check the B-52's-esque solo at 3:15 below (this is the Spanish-language version of the same tune, which closes the album):

You may also notice, if you haven't really paid attention to Shakira before, that her throaty warble sounds uncannily like another '90s rock icon: Alanis Morrisette. This tendency is even more pronounced on her previous album, ¿Dónde Están los Ladrones?, which has grunge guitars, Americana stylings, and lyrics about God being out of work. But I ask you: Did Alanis ever give the world a song like that album's "Ojos Así" (its English-language version, "Eye Like Yours," is on Laundry Service), which ups the exotica ante with a Phrygian melody, Arabic lyrics, gongs, and a slamming Bollywood rhythm section; in this context her quasi-yodeling sounds closer to ululation. Is it any wonder that this gave Shakira her biggest hit in Romania?
(I am delighted to see that not only have Chinese star Li Yuchun and Fifth Harmony alumna Lauren Jauregui made this a crowd-pleasing cover—there is also, fittingly, a Bollywood knockoff.)

The other keeper on Laundry Service is the irresistibly bittersweet "Te Dejo Madrid," whose sunny singalong choruses are framed by a Kinks-like guitar hook, and later sprinkled with harmonica.
As for the rest, I find the pan-Latin megahit "Suerte (Whenever, Wherever)" mildly tolerable, even as it, along with most of Laundry Service, betrays the ambition of her manager, Emilio Estefan, to make her a crossover star. She has since succeeded and surpassed that expectation, of course. But while I've enjoyed much of her border-hopping music in the intervening years, autotune and trap beats are no match for the unholy fusion of Link Wray and Astor Piazzolla this Latin rocker and her producers served up two decades ago.

*These are images from the Spanish-language lyrics of these three songs respectively.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Rob,

    I credited your post here when we played Shakira on last week's Accordion Noir Radio episode, and when I posted about some accordion videos here:

    Thanks for bringing her to our attention!