Well here I am, the review that was not supposed to ever happen. I told myself due to time constraints with my most recent trip out here to California that I simply would not have the time, sadly, to review Shakira’s latest effort, Sale El Sol. That all changed after the publication of my last review, Shakira’s performance at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on October 23rd (see the full review here), and the mind-blowing levels of praise and positive responses I received from fans across the globe. You guys are the best! To be honest, I wasn’t expecting all the encouraging words and I truly appreciate every single one of them. So now, I really feel like I would be letting Shakira fans, everywhere, down if I did not follow up with a review of Shakira’s October 19th release (here in the U.S.). There was one comment in particular that struck an accord with me, from a fan identified solely as Monica from Cincinnati, Ohio (my home state). It goes a little something like this: “It’s always nice to get a fan perspective instead of the (usually snobbish or uninterested) newspaper reviews.” That really hit home with me. And you know what? She is right! Couple with the enthusiasm and support of Shakira’s largest fan base over at ShakiraMedia.com (thanks R!) and the already positive critical reviews cited out there, I owe it to you, the worldwide diehard fans out there, to spread the gospel that is so beautifully constructed on Sale El Sol.
Sale El Sol (or The Sun Comes Out in English) is Shakira’s third bilingual and seventh studio album (not counting the two live discs she previously put out). Although the album wasn’t released in the U.S. until October 19th, fans had a chance to stream the disc a week ahead of time courtesy of Shakira’s Facebook page (all you had to do was like the page, see here). In my opinion, it was a brilliant marketing move for an even more brilliant body of work (and no, I’m not talking about Shakira’s physical body this time). It not only gave me instant satisfaction, but it relinquished any of my fears over the bilingual tracks that I wasn’t sure I would initially dig.
It is said that the album was recorded in the Bahamas, London, Dominican Republic and Barcelona. However, that’s a mute point to me. I could care less where the album was recorded, but how does it sound? I’ll get to that in a moment. Don’t worry. Nothing will be skimped here. Speaking of nothing being skimped, the album is definitely not short on collaborations. Artists such as Dizzee Rascal, El Cata, Calle 13 and Pitbull all harmoniously unite with Shakira to deliver a fresh, worldly, rock anthem album deeply rooted in Latino culture and sound. I usually don’t get into all these collaborations, one or two on an album is plenty for me, but trust me folks, these collaborations add a whole new dimension to these recordings, and quite honestly, I could not imagine them done any other way. But again, we’ll talk more about that in a few minutes.
Shakira describes this album as very personal and having a strong rock side along with romantic and Latino songs. She also said that this album reminds her of different eras and stages of her 20-year career. My, has it really been that long? Wow! Quite frankly, although her description sounds pretty rudimentary, I could not have summed it up better myself no matter how eloquent I would try to be with trick vocabulary. After all, this is Shakira. Like her natural beauty, let’s let this one stand out for what it really is, a natural body of art that deserves to be appreciated. And “thankfully” (no pun intended on the Arabic meaning of Shakira’s name), all the critics out there universally agree that this is some of Shakira’s best work. In my opinion, I will even be as bold to say that this is probably her best album since 2001’s Laundry Service, but again, that’s just me. Sale El Sol debuted at #7 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and it became Shakira’s fourth top ten album and her second Spanish language album to debut on the top ten. In Mexico, the album set the record for selling 30,000 copies in one day and was subsequently certified gold also in one day. Hey, what can you say? Our girl is a record breaker!
So now that I painted the beautiful landscape that is Sale El Sol, what do you say we start talking about the individual tracks? As usual, I thought it would be best if I just go in order as the tracks are laid out on the U.S. version of the disc (as pictured on the disc’s rear cover art shown below). And unlike my past review of Shakira’s She Wolf (see here), I thought it would be advantageous if I didn’t litter the review with unnecessary images and just got straight to the point of why we are all here…the MUSIC. Sound alright? Well I guess it really doesn’nt matter, huh? I have the final say, anyway. Ha ha. No, but seriously. Let’s take a closer look at the 15 tracks below that comprise Shakira’s latest body of work, Sale El Sol. Feel free to add your comments below if you should have different opinions than I, or if I blatantly missed anything, make sure to point it out. And remember, I’m doing the best I can here. I only had four years of Spanish in high school, so you will have to bear with me on my minimal skills here as I try to translate and dissect each track the best I can. Thanks for your assistance on a few of these tracks R. Here goes nothing…
1. Sale El Sol
I’ll be honest, like the comment I made about the way Shakira started her show in Los Angeles this past Saturday (see here), this song starts off a bit too slow for my tastes. Like my concerts, I like to have my albums start off with a bang. Call me juvenile; call me old-fashioned, I am what I am. You see I like to live life in the fast lane. I work hard, play hard and live hard. And to compensate for all the energy drain I sustain each and every day, I require equal amounts of energy from the music I listen to. But “thankfully,” the pace of the title track picks up rather quickly and before I know it, I am transformed into living harmoniously with a rockin’ Latino groove that I am just fine with. Shakira claims this track is a song that calls for optimism through difficult times. I always need that in my life, so this song is a winner. And in case all you non-Spanish speaking people were wondering, “Sale El Sol” loosely translates to “The Sun Comes Out” in English. But it’s only the beginning here folks, there’s so much more to explore. Let’s move on.
2. Loca (Featuring El Cata)
In “Loca,” Shakira refers to herself as a crazy person, which is obviously the English translation for the Spanish word loca. This track, which features El Cata, is the Spanish version of the song, not the English one we all are accustomed to hearing on the radio and seeing on VH1 because MTV doesn’t play music videos anymore, do they? Unfortunately, “Loca” did not initially get instant praise and love from the critics when it was first aired a month ago. It was because of this reason that I was very skeptical before hearing it with my own ears. But I’ll be honest; I was hooked from the very first listen. That hardly ever happens for me. The sexy music video did not hurt matters either. Even my wife, who I think is way too bogged down for her own good by Lady Gaga to care about much else in the world of music, admitted to liking this song upon first listen. Right there, you know you have a winner. With the quirky lyrics, swinging beat and Latin roots, this song is essential Shakira. And just in case you have been living under a rock this past month and have not seen her best video since “She Wolf,” check it out here. Who am I kidding? She always looks fine in any of her videos. Any naysayers can quietly exit the room. Hurry! Go now!
3. Antes De Las Seis
Ah, here’s the song that all the critics are saying sounds a little bit Asian. I guess I could concur with the statement when listening to it purely for the music. “Antes De Las Seis” loosely translates to “Before Six” in English. Obviously, I cannot translate the lyrics to this song, but just take my word for it; it’s a beautiful ballad that you definitely don’t want to pass up when listening to this CD. And if I am not mistaken, this is only one of two times that things get a bit slow on the album. Hooray! I love the new rockin’ Shakira. Moving on…
4. Gordita (Featuring Residente Calle 13)
I was told by my contact that “Gordita” translates to fat, fatty or chubby. So how is it used here? Your guess is as good as mine, but I guarantee you, this track will reel you in right from the very start. All it took was one listen to this eccentric track to have the lyrics and the infectious beat resonating in my head for days on end. Like the title of the next track, this one had me addicted right from the get go. There’s just something about this Latin-rap fusion collaboration project with Rene Perez of Calle 13 that will leave you wanting more. There’s no other way to explain it. The break down towards the end of the song is my favorite part and is well worth the wait. Now I just wish this track was longer so I can enjoy it even more, but we can’t always get what we want so I will just let it be. Supposedly, the story behind the song goes a little something like this. Rene told Shakira that it was a good idea to make fun of yourself and by doing so the haters can’t say anything more about you that you have not already said. Forgive me, but I’m scratching my head a bit. Besides her unique dance moves and her yodeling voice, I can’t think of a single thing one could ever make fun of Shakira for, especially the fat part. After reading the lyrics in English (thanks again R.), I kind of get the feeling that the term “Gordita” is being used as a tender expression to represent someone you love with a little perversion mixed in. Again, please help me out if I am totally wrong here. If anybody has any better explanations or theories, please let me know below. I’m actually dying to know. Now this next track is a lot easier to decipher, obviously, so I’m going to quietly move on. Dum-dee-dum-dum-dum…
5. Addicted To You
And right back to you Shaki! I’m addicted to you, if you could not tell. LOL. Does this song really need any explanation? Come on, if you can’t figure what this one is about, then how are you reading this? This song is simply a Spanish flavored scrumptious pop treasure that will just melt in your ears like a chocolate candy bar trapped in the hot car. And it doesn’t hurt hearing Shakira admitting that she is addicted to me too, LOL.
6. Lo Que Mas
“What More” can I say? No really, I have no idea what is being said here, but I will let the music speak for itself. The track graces my headphones like Madonna’s “Evita” once did and I have no reservations that longtime Shakira fans will not eat this one up. And by the way, in case you were wondering, “Lo Que Mas” translates to “What More” in English. Hang on, because it’s all uphill from here on out. Boyakasha!
In English, “Mariposas” translates to “Butterflies,” and that’s exactly what I get when I listen to this pop masterpiece. This song, although I don’t understand a word of it (LOL), is beautifully crafted. It’s simply exquisite. It’s like sitting next to a heat register on a cold winter day. You get the picture, right? After you listen to this track, you may wonder how a hard rocker like myself finds this track appealing. Well the answer is really quite simple. I appreciate the beauty of the song structure and the gentle flow of Shakira’s breath as she pushes out every audible syllable. It’s a delicate hidden gem that ultimately found its final resting spot on the CD to be associated with my favorite number, seven. Bonus!
8. Rabiosa (Featuring El Cata)
Here’s a song the Brian White of the 90’s would have never even gave a chance. Why? Because he did not open up to everything he was missing out on in the world of music until he discovered Shakira in the early 2000’s (see here). Track #8, “Rabiosa,” features a collaboration once again with El Cata. The song’s title means rabid in English. So what does rabid mean to you? To me it means raw sexual energy and that’s exactly what this song delivers in pure Latino style. I made the comment above about myself because prior to the 2000’s there was no way I would even listen to a song with trumpets like this, but I’m coming out of my shell today by declaring this track is my favorite of the album. It’s so swinging and once again, “addicting,” that I just can’t help myself when it comes to this track. It puts rhythm into my body I never knew I had. If this song were a scratch off lottery ticket, it would be an Instant Winner!
This must be the song that Shakira is talking about when she calls this a rock album. This song just has a very strong kick to it like a potent pot of coffee. From the opening guitars to the dynamic vocals, she will have you merrily screaming along with her the whole ride. I just love the guitar effects on this track and guess what, there’s even a quick guitar solo. There’s my girl! So to all my English only fans out there, was there ever any doubt that the title of this track translates to “Devotion?”
This is a perfect time to mention that the talented Shakira wrote or co-wrote every song on the album with the exception of this one. It is a cover of a song by The xx. I can’t admit to ever hearing it before, but it has a familiar vibe to it, so maybe I have and I’m just too old to remember. LOL. But anyway, this song is a real pop treat that feels as soothing as Jacuzzi jet bubbles alleviating my sore muscles after a long stressful day. Hey, that sounded convincing. Now I want a Jacuzzi! Anyway, this track just flows like serene water in a creek within a dense green forest, so just go with it.
11. Tu Boca
Now here’s a rocker! “Tu Boca” means “Your Mouth” in English. Upon first listen to this harder rockin’ track, I knew it would easily become one of my favorites on Sale El Sol, and I wasn’t wrong. In fact, I think even the legendary Kurt Cobain would put his stamp of approval on this track. I can envision Shakira singing this in her faded blue ripped up jeans and that black skull jacket of hers that I love so much. This is the Shakira I have been missing and is very reminiscent of a few of the harder rockin’ tracks on 2005’s Oral Fixation 2. No matter what comes out of Shakira’s “boca,” it seems pretty apparent that I like it.
12. Waka Waka (Estos Es Africa) (K-Mix)
This is the Spanish version of track #15 below. I decided to take the time to write about it in more detail below. So if you can’t stand the suspense of not knowing more about “Waka Waka”, skip down to #15 now.
13. Loca (Featuring Dizzee Rascal)
This is the English version of track #2 above, but instead of El Cata, it features a collaboration with Dizzee Rascal. This is the way I first heard and seen “Loca,” so it is only natural that this version will be my preference going forward. This is the version of the song that we see every morning on VH1 while eating breakfast, or is that only my lifestyle? Whatever the case may be, if you have not seen it yet, check out the music video here.
14. Rabiosa (Featuring Pitbull)
This is an alternate version of track #8 above, but instead of El Cata, it features a collaboration with Pitbull. It’s still the same great song, but with a little more English mixed in. But here’s the kicker folks, I love both of these tracks equally. English or Spanish, bring them both on! Both versions of “Rabiosa” landed a welcomed spot in my iTunes playlist. I just have one question to ask. Is Shakira really asking me to pull her closer? Really? Okay!
15. Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) (K-Mix)
Earlier in the year, it was announced that Shakira would be responsible for the 2010 World Cup anthem song. She was initially met with some controversy as most officials felt she should not have been chosen because she is not of African descent, but you know me, I was behind her all the way. Anyway, Shakira went on to perform at the opening ceremonies and it was nothing short of spectacular, just like the fashion in which she closes her concerts with this track. Granted, this song may not appeal to everyone, but give it some time, it just might grow on you (it may be classified as an “acquired taste”). The track’s power is exemplified when it’s performed live so maybe you just need to see it that way (hint, hint). Heck, I waited 36 years to see it performed, come on Shakira, next year? Pretty please! And if you have not caught it yet, make sure to check out the official music video for “Waka Waka” over here.
Highlights: “Loca,” “Gordita,” “Rabiosa,” “Devocion” and “Tu Boca.”
Alright, for the past 5+ minutes you have been reading all my non-stop gushing words of praise for Shakira’s latest outing, but are you ready for me to drop the real bomb on you? You sure you are ready? I’m warning you. It’s not for the faint of heart. I’m going to have many close friends questioning my loyalty and beyond that, sanity over this next declaration I’m about to make. Everyone on this site knows my love for Rob Zombie, right? I mean, he’s the man that practically gave me the wisdom and inspiration to even start this diverse website we run here. Well anyway, I’m going to prematurely declare a winner for 2010 album of the year, according to Brian, right here and now. And here it is…Sale El Sol! Despite my undying love and praise for Rob’s Hellbilly Deluxe 2, earlier this year, he’s got nothing on Shakira’s Sale El Sol. And no, it’s not because Shakira is cuter or anything like that. Hell no! She’s a sexual bombshell! But that’s beside the point. It’s all about the music. Sale El Sol is the complete package we have all been patiently waiting for from Shakira these 10 past years. The 33-year old Colombian performer has taken my world by storm. Will she take yours? Only time will tell. In my opinion, this musical genius has more talent in her little pinky than I will ever summon up within a lifetime and I optimistically look forward to her each and every next move, no matter how abnormal it might seem (referring to her unique dance moves). All eyes will be on her and I have no fear that this “She Wolf” will go forth, prosper and conquer the world of music and all her other creative outlets she has her eyes fixated upon. Like Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine wrote about himself on 1994’s Youthanasia, she is a “Victory!” And is it me, or did Bruno Mars really write that “Just The Way You Are” song about Shakira? I mean come on, it fits perfectly, do you not think?
Before I let you go, here’s my attempt at a little PSA. So have you noticed as of late that popular department stores like Target, Wal-Mart and even Best Buy have been significantly shrinking their CD selections they offer, in favor of people’s preference towards download formats? I’m not a fan of this, not at all. When it comes to my favorite artists, I want the packaging and artwork to gaze upon and the physical CD to do what I want with it. So that’s why I took it upon myself to offer you the following buying options below so you can start enjoying Sale El Sol today or within a few days, depending upon what format you prefer (CD or mp3). Don’t waste anytime! Be on your merry way to enjoying Shakira’s Sale El Sol as soon as possible! Thanks for reading and most importantly, your support. Until next time…