her long-anticipated English-language breakthrough, turning her into a global superstar in the process. A hit of that magnitude is hard to follow, so it shouldn't be a great surprise that she toiled on its sequel for upward of four years. What is surprising is that the subsequent album was split in two -- à la Kill Bill -- with the first being devoted to Spanish tunes and the second consisting entirely of English songs; the teasing titles Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1
and Oral Fixation, Vol. 2
indicate which is which and which hit the market first. It's kind of a sharp move to release Fijacion Oral
first, since it not only satisfies her longtime fans who have been waiting a long time for a collection of brand-new Spanish material (she hasn't delivered one since 1998's Dónde Están los Ladrones?
), it also subtly signals that she won't be placing American success above anything else. Similarly, Fijacion Oral
smartly straddles the line between traditional Latin pop and the sexy, splashy dance-pop and bombastic adult contemporary pop that made Laundry Service
a big hit in the U.S.: its heart is in the former, but the production -- the omnipresent Rick Rubin
serves as the executive producer -- is slick and bright, enough to make the first single, "La Tortura," sound like a natural for American radio (even if it will never be played because it's sung in Spanish). Despite the surface sheen, Fijacion Oral
is proudly a Latin pop record, and it conforms to the conventions of its genre, alternating between melodramatic ballads and insistent dance tunes, sometimes working a sleek bossa nova number into the equation for good measure (the terrific "Obtener un Sí," which sounds like it could have been a big hit in the late '60s). Even if it doesn't break convention, it nevertheless does its job extremely well, with an ample amount of style and flair, as well as more songcraft than Shakira
is usually given credit for. She's written each song here, sometimes in collaboration with either Luis F. Ochoa
or Lester Mendez
, and these ten originals (the 12-track album includes two alternate versions) have a combination of commercial savvy and smart writing, making this album a small triumph, proof that Shakira
can not only return to her roots, but expand upon them. Since this is a Latin pop record through and through, it will not cross over the way that Laundry Service
did, but that's by design: Fijacion Oral, Vol. 1
will conquer half of the world, and the other half will follow with Oral Fixation, Vol. 2
in six months' time. Given the strength of this album, it's hard to wait for the second part to arrive.