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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 18:14 GMT
Shakira airs her musical laundry
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By the BBC's Michael Osborn
With her new album Laundry Service, Latin music star Shakira is taking a path that has been well-trodden by singers from the Spanish-speaking world in recent times.

Shakira has been dubbed the
Shakira is a pretty tame rock chick
The blonde bombshell from Colombia joins a long list which features Gloria Estefan and Enrique Iglesias - Hispanic artists who have made a bold and brave leap to conquer the lucrative English language market.

On paper, Shakira appears to be just another identikit pop princess with her curled tresses and skimpy clothes. But her Latin pedigree and fascinating Lebanese heritage seems to offer something new and exciting.

Her debut hit Whenever, Wherever - which was unfortunately released the same week as Will Young's effort - is a meaty track tinged with exoticism.

Panpipes and pounding drums make it stand out, while Shakira's voice has a curious warble, perhaps gained from her Middle Eastern bloodline.

One of the most intriguing features about this young woman is her vocal prowess. Her voice is powerful and wavers bizarrely between little girl sugariness and quite disconcerting deepness. Sometimes it grates, at others it captivates.

Shakira has a hand in much of the song writing
Whenever, Wherever unfortunately fails to set the tone for the whole album. The overall impression is that she is a pretty tame rock chick.

Fool is a perfect example of this - a pleasant enough tune, but nothing original and wholly devoid of the exotic conundrum that this Colombian-Lebanese singer might offer.

Rules follows this slick, soft-rock formula as well, and is only saved by Shakira's bemusing vocal gesticulations.

The One has some unfortunate notes of old-fashioned growling guitar with echoes of Bonnie Tyler, while Ready For The Good Times rolls nicely on a perky disco tip.

But give her some credit - this young woman has a hand in much of the song writing, and some of the lyrics are ticklingly quirky. And goodness knows what fuelled her decision to name the album Laundry Service.

The singer has a powerful and unusual voice
The current single sees Shakira draw upon Latin American influences to good effect. Buried away at the end of this album is a track which sees the flip-side of her heritage come into its own.

Eyes Like Yours is a dazzling, thumping tune which is a fabulous musical fragment of the Middle East - and a great faith-restorer after the string of uninspiring pop-rock numbers.

This new addition in an already crowded market is a hard act to pigeonhole. Shakira could be written off as the Latin Britney, but has something more to offer with that highly unusual, undulating voice and song writing flair.

However, the album fails to impress after the exuberant feel of her debut single, given the soft rock furrow it generally follows.

When Shakira lays bare her exotic musical influences she becomes an exciting prospect - but sadly only two tracks see her truly stand out from the mainstream.

Laundry Service is out on the Epic label on 11 March

Hear a clip from Whenever, Wherever
See also:

02 Jan 02 | Music
Music of 2002: The expert views
03 Mar 02 | Music
Young scores record number one
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