Please keep the she-wolf caged
Centuries ago, the Chinese government implemented a form of slow torture by dripping water on its prisoners’ heads, which, though seemingly innocuous, ultimately drove the detainees to the brink of insanity. It defined the notion of cruel and unusual punishment, an unprecedented strategy until this month, when Shakira, the hip-convulsing Latin singer, released her new album, “She Wolf.”
The only purpose of this album has to be to torture its listeners slowly, and it will most likely lead to an outbreak of widespread feelings of disillusionment, hopelessness, and incorrigible misery wherever it is sold. It defeats any notion that mainstream pop music is dignified, intelligent, and emotionally riveting; it willingly embraces all of the stereotypes that have kept its genre stagnant for years.
The titular opening track thumps with a synthesizer beat, intermittently mixing horns and strings, which bloat the song with studio superfluities. A few times Shakira even howls like a wolf, which is almost as gimmicky as the gratuitous sexual innuendos within the song.
The seizure inducing beat and billowing moans on “Did It Again” only continue the drivel, supplementing basic strings and a simplistic beat with a random chant and an echoing “eh,” which seems to be stolen directly from Rihanna’s “Umbrella.” Therein lays one of the many problems with this album: nothing about it is original, interesting, or exciting.
Essentially, it adds to its already trite elements a sexual icon whose mission is to belt out tremendously irritating and pitchy vocals.
Each song outdoes its predecessor in shock value; every time a listener thinks, “This can’t get much worse,” this album defies expectations. It revels in its failures, practically making Boys Like Girls’ “Love Drunk” seem like Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 9.”
The overt sexuality, the hackneyed song structures, and the insultingly simple song structures, which have become an unfortunate prototype of 21st century pop music, are encapsulated in “She Wolf.” The cloying vocals alone make Van Gogh seem prudent in hacking off his ear, which seems like a viable option midway through this album.
“She Wolf” is truly amorphous; Shakira does not have an identity, but acts rather as a puppet. She half-raps with a swagger imitating Fergie, which is never a good sign, on “Men In This Town,” then takes the role of a gypsy on the appropriately titled, “Gypsy.”
The middle-eastern vibe could be successful if Shakira was not trying to assert the Brooklyn swag a song beforehand. She ironically admonishes her lover on “Mon Amour,” with vocals reminiscent of Avril Lavigne, singing, “I think you’re living in denial,” without realizing that her album is a hodge-podge of identities, and she does not seem comfortable in any of them.
On the club-banger gone Egyptian “Good Stuff,” Shakira says, during her moaning, “You don’t have to rub a lamp / ‘Cause I’ll take care of you.” Can a genie revoke this album’s release? Now that truly would be miraculous.
Critics who can praise this album are just not paying enough attention; a four star review in “The Times,” for instance, misnamed the album’s title as “Sea Wolf.” Sea wolves are hard to imagine as creatures, let alone as a concept for an album, but after this catastrophe, fans should not put anything past Shakira.
Kevin Stevens can be reached at email@example.com.