Shakira goes where wild things are with "She Wolf"

Tue Oct 13, 2009 11:47pm EDT
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By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - In Shakira's hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia, there's a 15-foot metal statue of her, wearing bell bottoms and strumming a guitar. It was donated by a German sculptor in 2006, in the midst of the singer's wildly successful Oral Fixation world tour, which featured her jaw-dropping belly-dancing and a finale of "Hips Don't Lie" with Wyclef Jean.

Shakira occasionally strummed a glittery guitar during the show, but by the time the statue was put up, she was far from the acoustic pop-rocker she'd been on her 1996 breakthrough album, "Pies Descalzos." And if the statue already was playing catch-up with her image in 2006, it barely captures her now.

Shakira's third English album, "She Wolf," reveals what may be her most club-oriented music to date: electronic pop with strong basslines and prominent world music textures, combined with a dose of in-your-face sex appeal.

"I felt very curious and intrigued about the electro-pop world and everything it has to offer," Shakira told Billboard by phone from her home in the Bahamas. "I wanted to make sure that this album was very bassy and that the kicks hit really hard, and I wanted to concentrate on the beat. But my music, to a certain extent, is very complex -- because I always try to experiment with sounds from other parts of the world."

Shakira produced and wrote the album, teaming with Pharrell Williams on production; other collaborators include Jean; John Hill, who's worked with Santigold; the Bravery's Sam Endicott; and Academy Award winner Jorge Drexler. Keyboardist Albert Menendez also co-wrote a song.

It's one thing to cross over into the non-Latin market, as Shakira did nearly a decade ago. But it's quite another to maintain that crossover, particularly to the degree that Shakira has. She'll follow up her simultaneous worldwide release with a tour promoted by Live Nation, with whom she has a multirights deal (although Epic is releasing the album) that's intended to build her business as a whole.

"For an artist in this day and age, and for an artist who is still early in their career, the challenge is: How do you conquer the world in a new way?" manager Ceci Kurzman asks. "How do you make sure that, now that the barriers have been dropped because of electronic media, how do you make sure that more people than ever can hear your music? There was a time you measured your success by the number of albums sold. And now you have such a broader scope."

WORLD RECORDS   Continued...

<p>Colombian singer Shakira speaks during a news conference in Bogota October 11, 2009. REUTERS/John Vizcaino</p>