Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 [DualDisc]
Colombian star Shakira generally gets her own way, and when the singer-songwriter proposed, counter to all industry practices, to follow up a hit English-language debut with a Spanish-language record three years later, it caused some head-scratching. But a hit video (the first Spanish-language song to chart on MTV's TRL) is just the first suggestion that Shakira knows best. Laundry Service was admirable if occasionally clumsy, but Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 shows her at her confident best. The fast-rising single, "La Tortura," features Spanish heartthrob Alejandro Sanz and a mix of club beats and Colombian accordion and percussion, indicative of the wide range of styles on the album, if not its overall sound. With executive production from Rick Rubin and, on two songs, co-production from Soda Stereo's Gustavo Cerati, Fijación Oral (Aural?) is experimental but focused, alternating strummy ballads with more rhythmic material. "Tortura" is certainly a standout, but the best track is "Día Especial." With Cerati's input, it sports an airy majesty typical of his Argentine supergroup, or early U2. "Escondite Ingles" is the album's sole rocker, a high-energy mix of surf rock and new wave that recalls songs from Laundry Service. There's nothing as exuberant as that album's "Wherever, Whenever" -- maybe that's waiting on Volume 2. But the singular vision of Shakira Mubarak, as singer, songwriter, and performer, hasn't come across this strongly in a while, and it needs no translation.