Review Summary: Shakira's strongest output, almost on the cusp of a 4.5 due to its amazing singing but barely missing it due to the slight lack of variety.
Shakira, in a few words, kicks all sorts of latin as
s. I mean, seriously, when was the last time a Spanish artist with true artistic merit made it huge in the U.S? If you said Ricky Martin, you’d be absolutely correct. Anyways, Shakira struck a goldmine in the American market with Laundry Service
, a pretty decent record with a few great singles and a bunch of repetitive nonsense. In fact, the massive success of that album seems to make people forget it wasn’t the launching point of Shakira’s career in the good ‘ol US of A. In fact, she had gained quite a strong foothold on the American market before that.
¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
is the end of the first era of Shakira; her strictly Spanish age. A sad fact in some respects, as it was only her second album made in the spotlight. Oh, but what a way to end arguably the better half of her career. Building upon the traditional Spanish pop foundations she had always had, ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? saw her branch out even farther into other styles of music, particularly more traditional Spanish music styles (much in the way artists like Ray Barretto and Santana did later in their careers) and more Americanized jabs at rock. The end result? Her best, most focused record to date; alive with the spirit of the revolution!
Wait, wrong Spanish female songwriter. Scratch that last sentence.
Anyways, Shakira greatly outdid herself with this release. Her past efforts were sort of fun, poppy traipses through pretty standard Spanish rock. While Shakira’s voice had always been unique and interesting, her songwriting had never been a major plus; although she had been writing for nearly her entire life, she still wasn’t up to the snuff of any self respecting Spanish artist. Thus, ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
is a pleasant surprise in that department; while most of you likely don’t speak Spanish or are fluent enough to understand what she’s saying, those who can will find a pleasant mixture of social commentary and personal experience told through the mind of an intelligent young woman. She expressly uses imagery and (a well noted fact among fans) has an internal rhyme scheme throughout many of the songs that she would never again truly utilize
At the certainty of repeating myself, Shakira’s voice has always been the selling point of her music (besides her wonderfully shaped figure). Those who have only heard English material will be surprised by the strength her voice carries in her native tongue; far from the sort of wobbly, “annoying” voice most find her to have in English, Shakira’s spanish singing is powerful, moving and elegant. She carries around far more confidence in her native tongue, and its obvious with the far greater range of singing she does while using it. “Tú”, the final song on the album, is the vocal highlight. A soft ballad in the vein of “Underneath Your Clothes” (reference point #1, kids), it works far more effectively than its English counterpart. Her voice has a melody in Spanish that it lacks in English, and the transition from soft crooning to a commanding yell at the end is pure vocal bliss.
For all the musical influences she brings onto the table here, the album isn’t incredibly varied. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing; the tracks all boast top notch Studio musicianship, with smooth guitar riffs and basslines abounding, and the occasional fluttering of keys or synths. Hell, there are mariachi horns in the opening tack. Shakira also uses her voice as an instrument now as opposed to her earlier work. As much as I don’t want to, I can’t help but gush about her voice, it’s just that great. “Ojos Asi” the smash single from the album is an amazing mix of her Lebanese and Columbian descent along with Arabic lyrical work, that would falter if Shakira didn’t make it all sound so damn promising.
There’s not much else to say about the album. If you like Shakira’s voice, you’ll love ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
. It’s easily her best work, and just on the verge of being spectacular. IF you think her voice is annoying in English, you may still enjoy this immensely, as the difference between languages is astounding with Shakira. Of course, if you just hate her…well, you can still look at her on that album cover. Fwoar. Regardless, ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones?
is the gem of Shakira’s discography, and one of the best Spanish pop releases of the past decade.
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