COLOMBIA: Laundry Service - Shakira
Updated: Jan 20, 2021
The Latin Queen of Pop shows off her capacity to hook a Western audience with her powerful and unique voice.
Whilst on Around the World in 200 Albums we typically like to discover more niche artists, whose albums our readers perhaps have not heard of, it would be unjust to not include the Latin Pop Goddess’ first predominantly English-language album into the conversation when discussing phenomenal albums from Colombia. There is a reason why Shakira broke into the global market with her ground-breaking release of Laundry Service 19 years ago (yes, I was as surprised as you to find out that the album came out in 2001). The Colombian’s album is a far cry from her modern-day reggaeton-stylings and instead shows off how her remarkable voice can adjust to the wide-range of genres which feature.
“Shakira shows off her husky Bonnie Tyler-esque voice, as well as her capacity to be sensual and romantic in both languages.”
Shakira undertakes a hefty challenge in this album, in trying to stay true to her Latin roots whilst appealing to a Western audience, and for the most part conquers every genre with flair in either language. Perhaps the most recognisable song from Laundry Service, Wherever, Whenever, does this best, as it includes Andean instruments such as panpipes and the charango despite having a real Western pop sensibility. Despite being lyrically nonsensical at times, particularly the line ‘lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don't confuse them with mountains’ and the fact that her voice is at times a little too breathy for my taste in the English-language version of the song, it cannot be denied that this track is close to being musically complete. Even though I personally prefer the Spanish language version, Suerte, the penultimate track on the album, Wherever, Whenever has a unique yet intriguing sound both in terms of the instrumentation as well as Shakira’s vocals that should be appreciated. Furthermore, regardless of the questionable lyrics in the verses it has an immensely catchy chorus.
In fact, the album sets the tone for this fusion approach between Latin music and music more familiar in the UK and US from the start of the album. The first few notes of the song Objection commence with a classical Argentinian tango piece, reminiscent of the likes of Astor Piazzolla, before Shakira adeptly fuses this rhythm into a seductive alluring pop-rock song. Her passionate rocky style does not end here as she performs akin to the likes of Canadian singer Alanis Morissette (who will be featuring on our site soon) in The One, Fool and Poem To A Horse, as well as even in one of her native tongue Te Dejo Madrid. She sings with a certain spirited quality that could be in some ways unappealing to some sections of the (at that point) untapped English-speaking market, but instead her swagger with which she sings is rather captivating.
Yet Shakira does not just show off her adaptability during the more rocky numbers. Shakira shows that she can produce energetic dance-pop tunes such as Rules and Ready For The Good Times with just as much talent, in addition to power ballads that feature on the album Underneath Your Clothes and Que Me Quedes Tu in which she shows off her husky Bonnie Tyler-esque voice, as well as her capacity to be sensual and romantic in both languages. Whilst I was not a huge fan of Eyes Like Yours (Ojos Así), I did admire her attempt to include an Arabian sound in the album, a shout-out to her Lebanese heritage. Overall, there is not a lot to dislike on this album and there is a reason why Shakira is the global superstar that we are all familiar with today. Laundry Service put her on the map, and rightly so, as the world finally got to appreciate her versatility and special voice that continues to captivate audiences to this day.