By Allison Stewart
Global pop star and hip-swinging tsunami Shakira's last album was 2009's forgettable "She Wolf," a work of cheerful insanity that found the singer following her usual unassailable instincts down an electro-pop rabbit hole. "She Wolf" smothered Shakira's personality under a barrage of generic effects, often desultory beats and, occasionally, wolf sounds (Shakira is nothing if not literal).
"Sale el Sol" doesn't make the same mistakes. A Spanish/English dance/rock amalgam that relies on a United Nations' worth of contributors, "Sale el Sol" (roughly translated to "The Sun Comes Out") cartwheels through just about every contemporary pop sub-genre, inventing some along the way. "Loca" is hip-hop merengue performed in two languages, with assistance from Dominican rapper El Cata and English rapper Dizzee Rascal, with little appreciable difference between the versions; "Lo Que Más" is one of a handful of doleful ballads; the Pitbull-assisted "Rabiosa" is giddy, rapid-fire Latin pop. There's also a cover of electro hipster outfit the xx's "Islands" that suggests a softer version of "Ray of Light."
"Sale" showcases Shakira's remarkable voice, as always an indecipherable waterfall of gurgles and growls and coos where consonants go to die and where English and Spanish versions sound pretty much the same. "Sale" is eclectic though not necessarily adventurous -- most tracks would have sounded equally at home in late 2008 -- but it provides a better showcase for Shakira's countless charms than its predecessors ever did.
Recommended tracks: "Waka Waka (Esto es Africa)," "Gordita," "Rabiosa"