Shakira: Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran review – revenge served disappointingly tepid | Shakira

The cover of Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran features a closeup shot of Shakira crying, her tears turning into diamonds as they run down her face. It’s a neat summation of relatively recent developments in the singer’s career. Her 2023 single Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol 53 transformed the toxic fallout from her breakup with footballer Gerard Piqué into one of her biggest ever hits. Within days of release, it was the most streamed track in the world and had broken the record for the number of YouTube views for a Latin American song. It was so huge, it apparently affected the stock market. “You traded a Ferrari for a Twingo,” she railed, “you traded a Rolex for a Casio” – and, incredibly, both Renault and Casio’s share prices dropped.

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Shakira: Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran album cover. Photograph: Jaume de Laiguana

Moreover, the cover suggests that there’s more where that came from, that Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran is Shakira’s big breakup album – her Blood on the Tracks, her Here, My Dear – a development that might cause long-term observers of her career to prick up their ears. Her arrival on the international stage with 2001’s Laundry Service was one of 00s pop’s more cheering events. Here was a 24-year-old Colombian who seemed to have a completely unique approach to being a pop star. She proffered mainstream bangers and AOR ballads alongside musical experiments off-the-wall enough to make you wonder how they’d got past reception at a major record label: Gregorian chants, surf guitars, bursts of music hall oompah and homages to Led Zeppelin. Her lyrics were so odd that some observers patronisingly suggested their author had a shaky grasp of English, but a quick scan of their Spanish-language equivalents revealed she was using exactly the same weird metaphors and imagery in her native tongue. It was all hugely entertaining, until the commercial underperformance of 2009’s She Wolf in the US seemed to rattle her: Shakira’s albums have been getting less idiosyncratic and more dreary ever since. Perhaps the hell-hath-no-fury mood here might inspire her to recover her sense of daring: after all, a woman who expresses her feelings about her ex’s mother by allegedly putting a lifesize model of a witch directly outside her home doesn’t seem minded to meekly curry favour.

Shakira and Fuerza Regida: El Jefe video

Alas, anyone harbouring such expectations should dampen them. It’s certainly an album mired in her romantic travails, from sorrow at a failing relationship (Entre Paréntesis) to brutal enumeration of her ex’s failings (Te Felicito), to tentative steps back into dating, beset by doubts and fears which seem to have been assuaged by the conclusion of Nassau (“After doing it nonstop / We repeat it”). There are occasional flickers of the blue-sky-thinking Shakira of yore, in the lyrics of Puntería (which, if the translation provided by the record company is to be trusted, contains the intriguing command “give me your fire, squeeze my buttocks”) and in the moment when Cómo Dónde y Cuándo briefly threatens to transform itself from a We Will Rock You stomp into raging drum’n’bass. But these are scattered moments in an album primarily concerned with strolling through a selection of familiar modern pop styles: some Afrobeats, a big piano ballad (complete with guest vocals by Shakira’s children), a bit of mournful reggaeton on TQG and plenty of wan pop-house of both the EDM-inspired and disco-influenced varieties. The melodies range from strong to irritatingly rinky-dink: none of them has a tune grabby enough to override the sense that you’ve heard a lot of this kind of thing already. There is a guest appearance from Cardi B – who briefly livens things up by comparing her vagina to an empanada – and there is the perennially depressing sound of a vocalist who patently doesn’t need to be Auto-Tuned submitting to it anyway because that’s the way things are done these days.

The best moments come when Shakira seeks out bands who deal in regional Mexican styles, a sound currently on the ascent in the Americas: Grupo Frontera on Entre Parentésis, and especially Fuerza Regida, who perform a frantic corrido on closer El Jefe. The latter jolts you not just because of its sweary lyrics – “I work harder than a whore but I fuck like a priest” – but because it feels unexpected. This is not music that Shakira has essayed before, which suggests the adventurous spirit that was once her USP isn’t entirely extinguished.

But if she’s still capable of making striking music, why doesn’t she do it more often? The majority of Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran settles for gliding in one ear and out the other without leaving much impression, but without actively driving you up the wall either: the state of sublime mediocrity in which a lot of current pop chooses to operate. Perhaps that’s the point here. Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran sounds like the work of someone who has decided that sales are born of playing it safe and that success in itself is the best revenge.

This week Alexis listened to

Charlotte Day Wilson – I Don’t Love You
An exquisite, graceful piano ballad with a plethora of twisted vocal samples lurking in its peripheral vision: fans of James Blake’s early experimentation are advised to investigate.

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