‘Shakira.,” the namesake new album from the Colombian singer-songwriter and humanitarian, comes with a number of distinctions. It’s her first album since becoming a mother and a coach on the television singing competition “The Voice” last year, and it’s her return to performing in English after 2010’s excellent “Sale el Sol.”
The real achievement, though, is that it’s also her most personal effort in years, a reminder that there’s a lot of heart and soul beneath the shiny exterior of her global stardom. On her previous two studio records, Shakira had gone into high-gloss mode, unleashing her inner dance-floor diva on 2009’s “She Wolf” and then into pulsating Latin pop on “Sale el Sol.”
“Shakira” is a more middle-of-the-road affair, but it’s also more revealing. After ending a long-term relationship with Antonio de la Rúa that was both romantic and professional, Shakira moved on and had a son last year with Gerard Piqué, a Spanish soccer player.
She sounds at ease and reborn on this new album, proudly addressing the joy of new love from both her child and partner. “Hey, do you believe in destiny?/ ’Cause I do as I did then/ When you were only 23,” she sings on the chorus of “23,” a reference to Piqué’s age when they met. The song concludes with a gurgle from their infant son.
It’s sweet enough to make you forgive the occasional misstep, such as “Medicine,” a trite duet with Blake Shelton, the country star who’s her fellow coach on “The Voice.” Shakira sounds more at home with Rihanna on “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” which bounces to a slinky ska beat. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Can’t Remember to Forget You”