Shakira: Oral Fixation, Vol. 2

Matt Cibula

Shakira is the truth, people, and she's proven it twice over in 2005. She's made the best pop album of the year.


Oral Fixation, Vol. 2

Label: Epic
US Release Date: 2005-11-29
UK Release Date: 2006-02-27
Amazon affiliate

What do you want from pop music? Some want disposable fun; some want something more deep and meaningful. Some prefer indelible hooks; some want the WTF moment. Some want songs that sound familiar but a little bit different; some want songs that are new and exciting but still seem rooted in something "real". Some are all about the melody; some love a good dancey rhythm; some hope for memorable lyrics that mean something; others just listen for a chorus they can shout along to, drunkenly, when it comes on the sound system at the bar.

Well, here Shakira nails it all in a tidy little album of 11 English-language songs. Everything on the list above is here, in large amounts, on just about every song, and it's all tied together by Shakira's skewed, off-beat pop songwriting vision. In three words: SHE DID IT.

I knew she had it in her; in fact, one of my very first reviews for PopMatters said as much. But I wasn't sure it would ever really happen. I saw her running all around on every award show and bumping and grinding, and worried that she'd just end up being a new age Charo. But this June's extremely great Fijación Oral, Vol. 1 gave me hope.

But this goes beyond what I had hoped, because it is unhinged in some kind of fundamental way. It is not an avant-garde record by any means, but there is something extremely avant about Shakira's voice. This strange instrument, made up of equal parts Cher and Alanis and Nancy Sinatra, is always veering offtrack and back on, bursting into weird filigrees at odd moments because she just can't stop the emotions flooding her gypsy soul. Or maybe it's just because she's insane. Either way, it's thrilling and gives even the softer stuff here, like "The Day and the Time", an edge that most pop singers can rarely achieve.

And I think Shakira is a great songwriter (all lyrics, collaborates on all music), but there's also something very strange about the songs here. Take the first single, "Don't Bother". It's internally inconsistent -- our song's protagonist is stoic about getting dumped, upset about it, angry about it, fine with it -- but intentionally so, because that's the way it is when you get dumped. But the ferocity of her declarations of independence is not something that's been heard on the radio since, well, since Kelis, I guess, or Alanis, or Janis, or Aretha. And the way she hisses "I'm really a cat you see / And this is not my last life at all" is furious and sexual and self-mocking all at once, perfect for the song but a little bit... off. (Not to mention the spoken word break where she says that if he'd come back to her she'd even move to a communist country or learn to love football.) (And not to mention the fact that there's no way anyone would leave Shakira for someone else based on cooking skills or knowledge of French and t'ai chi.)

There's a lot else that's even, y'know, off-er here. The opening song asks God if He's Jewish or Muslim and then calls him out "Dear God" style and then forgives him "One of Us" style, as well as deploying the Lord's Prayer as a great rock hook. The closer dresses up a protest about the people of East Timor as 1980s new wave disco, with a whole-scale hook-theft from Cindy Lauper's "She Bop". What sane person would do this? Well, records get released by sane people every day. What we have here is a very different sort of thing: a thing of beauty made by a full-on nutter. (What was that they used to say about Maria Conchita Alonso? "Half out of her mind, half out of her dress"?)

In between, there are moments of huge drama ("Costume Makes the Clown") and tiny drama ("Something"), surf-guitar rock songs ("Animal City") and cushy lovejamz ("Your Embrace") and country tunes ("Illegal," with its "I'm starting to believe / It should be illegal to deceive / A woman's heart" chorus, would not need a lot of massage to turn it into a #1 CMT single). None of this is especially safe, or sane, but it's all lovely, and strange, and Shakira-like.

Some might think I'm going over the top here, raving too much about what is essentially a pop record. I've been accused of that before. But if I didn't call your attention to the best pop record of the year, I would be remiss in my duty. So you're damn right I'm shouting, because I'm trying to get your attention. Shakira is the truth, people, and she's proven it twice over in 2005. She is clearly the artist of the year.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.