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Shakira - 'Fijacion Oral Vol 1'
(Wednesday June 22, 2005 10:01 AM )

Released on 06/06/05
Label: Sony

Shakira is the greatest pop star we have. It's even difficult, if you live in the UK, to say we have her - to many here she's probably just the belly dancing lady with the goat-like yodel who passed through here during the brief fondness for all things Latin-American. But to much of the rest of the world she's a superstar and it's a reminder of how insignificant the English speaking world really is that Shakira's seventh studio album is released in Spanish only.

There's no one quite like her. Other than Madonna and Prince, no one has approached pop music with such all consuming artistry as Shakira. And with Madge soft in the head with daft religions and most of us long given up hope that our Prince is ever gonna come again, she really is one of a kind. "Fijacion Oral Vol 1" and its forthcoming English language brother "Oral Fixation 2" were hewn from a collection of 60 songs written, according to the 28 years old singer, during a spiritual journey through life and death.

And it's a far more eclectic work than 2001's multi-platinum "Laundry Service". The album begins with Shakira coming over all Jane Birkin (oh behave!) on "En Tus Pupilas", with sexy whisperings and haunting guitar. "La Pared" starts with echoes of Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams" before soaring into epic Coldplay territory (minus their insufferable bluster).

The slightly disappointing first single "La Tortura", a duet with Spanish dancehall star Alejandro Sanz, is greatly improved by the remix, tacked on as a bonus track, but the album's masterpiece is the extraordinary "Obtener Un Si" which seems to have borrowed part of the melody from Stephen Sondheim's "I Never Do Anything Twice" (from the obscure Sherlock Holmes movie "The Seven-Percent Solution") and backed it with a sumptuous orchestral arrangement of pulsing muted horns, bell trees, flutes and a delicate vocal performance beyond her years.

It wouldn't be a Shakira album without something extremely nuts (let's not forget that this is the woman who played concerts under the banner "The Tour Of The Mongoose") and "Escondite Ingles" is a quiet-then-loud, B-52s-style, punk-pop freak-out, i.e. extremely nuts. Just knowing Shakira is still in the world and capable of making albums as inspired and assured as "Fijacion Oral Vol 1" is like finding out ABBA are reforming or that the real Michael Jackson was kidnapped and replaced with an evil imposter shortly after making "Thriller". Pop wasn't dead, just sleeping. Shakira is wide awake and, as they used to say in Smash Hits, back, back, BACK!

    by Tom Townsend

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