By Niy Birden
It has been 3 years since Shakira’s last album. Since then, she has collaborated with fellow mega-superstar Rihanna, stood powerfully like the Latin goddess she is while her wedding dress was on fire, and given birth to her second baby. While her last album was a rock, country, reggae, pop and slightly-latin combination of tracks, her new album El Dorado reminds us yet again that she is undeniably, a Latin artist-a dance one at that.
Caribbean drums and electric rhythms set the entire tone of El Dorado. It starts off with the muffled, electric guitar riffs of “Me Enamoré”, which as described by Shakira “This song narrates a moment in my life when I was so in love that I was literally climbing trees”, referring to her current partner Gerard Pique. Another noticeable detail in the song is the use of 808 kits, also known as “Dirty
South” beats or “Trap” beats.
But this isn’t a new thing for Shaki. Shakira has always incorporated modern hip hop styles into her music, which can be seen from her 2009 album, She Wolf, more specifically in the song “Give It Up To Me”, which features prominent hip hop artists Lil’ Wayne and Timbaland.
El Dorado proceeds on with “Nada”, a rock ballad with such strong piano playing that youcan almost imagine her playing it to her usual thousands of fans. The album then hits an interesting point with “Chantaje”, her first collab of the album with fellow Columbian artist Maluma, which makes it her first collaboration-ever with another Columbian musician.
Interestingly enough, both artists’ first albums were both named Magic, and this is their third time working together. Could this be another great pairing for Shakira? Just like with artist Pitbull, she has had hit after hit with Maluma, whom she started working with for her “Dare (La La La)” remix and made two more songs for the album. ‘Chantaje’ means ‘blackmail’ in Spanish, and that is enthusiastically represented with the rough, smooth vocals of Shakira and Maluma, alongside the, cool and still club-catchy chorus that even your grandma might like. In fact, “Chantaje” is so good that the music video recently surpassed the 1 billion mark on YouTube,
making it Shakira’s 2nd video to do so, and the third to reach that count so quickly after its release.
“When A Woman” speeds by with another dancehall beat, and Amarillo comes in with
another round-the-campfire guitar tone. Nicky Jam makes quite an impressive feature with the follow-up song, “Perro Fial”, with-yes, you guessed it, another dancehall beat. Nicky’s strong and passionate phrasing really helps the listener escape the repeating beat and almost steals the attention from Shaki’s ever- seducing voice. The middle of the album brings in a more melancholy, chill vibe with the song, aptly titled “Trap”, featuring Maluma once again. The familiar trap beats are very prominent in the song, but what is even more impressive is the electric
guitar that hangs over their auto tuned, intoxicated-seeming harmonic voices. It’s no surprise that Shakira makes trap sound so refreshingly good.
El Dorado then transitions back into its native dancehall-beat song, Comme moi, with
prominent French musician Black M. It makes an interesting duet for the two and is quite upbeat for such a melancholy song. Coconut Tree is another return to her guitar-strumming, pop beat of love and affection. Shakira definitely shines when singing about relationships. “La Bicicleta” is next, with more of a cumbia influence than anything, featuring Carlos Vives, and has a catchy, rousing chorus that reminds you of being with your friends, on, well a bicycle. It has a very lovely nostalgic feeling. Instrumentally, it is one of the most diverse songs on the album, incorporating traditional Columbian wind instruments and nicely- an accordion. None of these elements overpower one another but still make it effortless, which explains why it is such a hit.
The next song, “Deja vu”, is a nice reminder of classic Latin music, with congos, Spanish guitar melodies and Bachata-driven grooves. Prince Royce’s voice is very soft and youthful compared to the previous men on Shakira’s albums, which gives this song in particular a much more stronger feeling of, well frankly, love. The chemistry gives the album a much-appreciated lovey-dovey moment that both artists are both known for. The album continues on with “What We Said”, an English version of “Comme moi”, this time with musical band MAGIC!, making ittheir second collaboration. This pairing works very well considering the heavy Caribbean
influence that both artists have. Finally, “Toneladas” finishes off with a piano- vocal ballad, giving the album a perfect finishing touch with its nicely-placed reverb and run-on like verses.
While the album was another great presentation of Shakira’s writing mastery, one wonders if Shakira will continue on to play around with trap music to fit into the newly-formed industry standards of radio hits. El Dorado definitely shows it is possible.