Colombian singer-songwriter Shakira is releasing her latest album El Dorado (English: The Golden One) on May 26. For the most part, she chases the Latin music trends of the moment while returning to her rock roots on the 13-track LP. Fans waiting for a proper follow-up to 2014's self-titled record will be a bit disappointed at the number of collaborations recycled on El Dorado, but it's the new material where Shakira shines.
Two weeks ago, Shakira announced the El Dorado album and the bottom half of the tracklist is filled with previously released collaborations with Carlos Vives ("La Bicicleta"), Prince Royce ("Deja Vu") and Black M ("Comme Moi"). All of those are fine songs in their own right, but they feel like filler and only add to the suspicions that this might've been a rushed release. On the flip side, Shakira's other offerings are pretty strong and shouldn't get discounted by the mishap.
Reggaeton collaborations are all the rage so Shakira got the best in the game for her album. She hooks up with fellow Colombian Maluma on the slinky and sexy lead single "Chantaje" (English: "Blackmail") and the two go for another round on the trap music ballad "Trap." Her best team-up is with Nicky Jam, a reggaeton veteran, as they fight the feelings on "Perro Fiel" (English: "Faithful Dog"). The sexual tension possibly signaling something more ignites their emotions on this majestic standout.
Shakira reunites with the man who put her on the map, co-writer and producer Luis Fernando Ochoa. The two strike gold on "Nada" (English: "Nothing"), a power ballad where she rediscovers her inner rock chick. Shakira translates her baby-come-back heartache into a soaring performance. Ochoa's also responsible for the album's serene moments with the alluring "Amarillo" (English: "Yellow") and the stripped-down "Toneladas" (English: "Tons"). Those understated tunes highlight her poetic lyrics.
There are a few English-language songs as well and Shakira once again works with top talent. She co-wrote "When a Woman" with hit-makers Julia Michaels, Justin Tranter and producer Cashmere Cat. Synths and shuffling beats back her detailing a romance that hurts so good. "Only a woman can love this hard," she sings. Shakira puts it down on the hypnotic dance track. Later on, she winds down on the guitar-driven delight "Coconut Tree." Her Magic! collaboration, "What We Said" (an English version of "Comme Moi"), feels repetitive and would've made more sense three years ago at the "Rude" band's peak.
Instead of a refined effort, El Dorado is a mixture of different musical elements. Shakira channels the past for old fans and scopes the current landscape for new fans while those previously released duets are awkwardly thrown in there. It's not a clear comeback album, but El Dorado cleverly cashes in on the versatility of Latin music's golden superstar.
AXS Rating: 3.5/5