Who would have thought the long-black haired Columbian who played acoustic pop, would someday become one of the most prominent artists worldwide with her constant musical reinventions and eye-catching belly dance abilities. After the array and critical success of both Oral Fixation volumes, one would be over the edge wondering what her next move would be, expecting diversity and excluding what the ‘crowd’ does as an option. All this applies to the hip shaker’s third English offering.

She Wolf is a magnificent blend of firm electronic beats, synthesizers, pulsating bass lines and Shakira’s trademark use of the ‘world sound’, attributing several cultural musical influences to the overall character of the album; primarily gongs, horns,  timbales, mid-western percussion and a Colombian gaita. The Neptunes production is widely talked about for it being flagrantly predictable, but their feature in the record’s production is just singular, as it strays far from past work they have crafted for renowned names in the industry.

The record is Shakira experiencing a ‘first’ with electronic music. By merely hearing She Wolf is a new venture into electro-synth-pop, one would automatically assume is a sell-out record due to the modern trends in music set by Madonna, Britney Spears and Lady GaGa, but it in itself is ‘100% Shakira’ regardless of the major step into the genre. What reaffirms her absolute involvement and presence is her particular songwriting, and She Wolf is no different; she compares herself to an ‘abused coffee machine in an office’ in its title track, along other witty bits which have her name ‘stamped’ all over it.

It is feverish and animalistic, as its title suggests. It is self indulgent, danceable, and to some extent disco. Highlights are the bass opening, almost garage rock like ‘Mon Amour’, which eccentrically references flight attendant catering (but to hell), the extensively percussive ensemble ‘Did It Again’, the howling title track, which has its own sexy-mysterious marauding merit. ‘Long Time’, a red-hot easygoing reggaeton-esque number reflecting her roots from Barranquilla (à la ‘La Tortura’)  and the defining track: ‘Men In This Town’, which literally encapsulates, on the whole, the idea of the she wolf, as well as the temper and atmosphere present in entire body of work; it is daring and boldly out for the prowl. ‘Give It Up To Me’ is yet another instantly-recognizable Timbaland production and a austere hint of urban pop, if not nearly hip hop; it is definitely a nice listen and great to bust a move or two, but it feels strained.

The Spanish versions of the singles limit the record to a minimal and disappointing listing of 10 tracks, which considering statements of this being her third English installment and after her four year break, only 10 tracks is insulting. But their addition is justified by the fact they seem to have made the cut to promote the album in Hispanic regions. They surprisingly add a little extra to their respective English recordings, particularly ‘Loba’ which has a mini bridge absent in its English version, furthering and clarifying what Shakira means by her conception of a She wolf.

 Shakira tries something new yet still keeps her original Latin groove, coming up with something refreshing, innovative and sounding unlike the regularity of mainstream electronic pop. The record is well balanced between synthesized beats and organic instrumentation. Incorporating drums and significant strumming only buffed what Shakira wanted to accomplish. The album is ambitious, but it does stay true to its definite ambition, by achieving the sound it intended to follow and even exceeding it. The record is intense, whimsical, sensual and distinctive (it is not even close to generic).

She Wolf in itself is fantastic, but was victimized by timing. ‘Loba’ leaked in full in early June, both spanish and english versions then were officially released in early July last year, while the respective album was released until very late in November when the single had already lost its steam by miles. Shakira’s label should have taken advantage of the public’s reaction and expectation towards the record, the fan viral videos posted on hosting sites of the ‘She Wolf strikes’ across the globe, and both the momentum and attention she garnered with the single and its accompanying sweltering video. They had the right cues to guarantee the success of the record, but the manifold chances were apparently overlooked and subsequently wasted away. The song then became irrelevant and the underperformance of the second single, ‘Did It Again’ just added weight to the album’s sinking ship, apart from the fact She Wolf competed against other major releases the same day it was out; particularly with Lady GaGa’s The Fame Monster, backed up with the Top 2, multi platinum selling ‘Bad Romance’. Guess She Wolf was not released on its due full moon.

★★★★1/2

C.Perez