08 June 2005

A Cautionary Tale

Saturday night I caught about 40 minutes of a Shakira video retrospective on Galavision (don't ask…the spanish-language channels always seem to suck me in). The production value was horrible and I only understood about 65% of what was going on--which is terrible considering I lived in Guatemala for two years and used to speak and understand Spanish without much trouble at all. Still, the program was fascinating. Showcasing interview clips and relying primarily on music videos from Shakira's early albums, the program shocked me.

I used to enjoy Shakira. In her Spanish-only days, she was intriguing for a number of reasons: 1) she's from Colombia, but her father is American-born and her mother is Lebanese; 2) her music is best classified as electro-acoustic-dance-pop-rock with Middle Eastern flair and TexMex influence; 3) her hips move in an unlawful manner; and 4) her voice. For the most part, her first major label albums (Pies Descalzos and Donde Estan Los Ladrones) were mashups of the above mentioned styles. A li'l chaotic, but all sorts of fun. And her MTV Unplugged set is a borderline buy-it-for-all-your-friends album--heavy on the horns and chock full of Shakira goodness.

Alas, Shakira had more on her mind than a conquest of Latin America. She wanted the adoration of millions of moronic U.S. fans. So she did the only logical thing. She wrote and recorded horrible songs in English, and she started wearing less clothing. I guess it's inevitable, but that doesn't make it less tragic. Shakira's Laundry Service sold a bazillion copies and now she's releasing a Spanish-language album this month, to be followed by another English bomb this fall. I'm sure you'll be seeing a barely-clothed Shakira shaking everything she's got across every channel in your TV Guide. So brace yourself. But if you're feeling brave and you'd like to know how truly disturbing Shakira's fall (or ascension, if you're her manager or accountant) really is…snoop around and find some of her old videos. They're fabulous and they hint at everything Shakira could have become, but rejected.

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