Asking the Internet about ideas for “special type of content” to celebrate my 200th blog post brought some great ideas. One of those was to listen to and review an album I would usually never pick up.
The person who suggested the idea provided a list of records fitting the category perfectly well. I heard them all and decided to honour the challenge with an album that surprised me more than I could have imagined. This post is dedicated to my experience with Shakira’s Oral Fixation Vol 2 – an album you can hardly force yourself to dislike.
I want to start with a big thank you to Bogdan, who came up with this challenge and shared a list of albums to try out. All of them were interesting to explore, and choosing just one was not so easy.
With this being said, I continue to convince myself that keeping an open mind is crucial. Music-wise this opens up the world to tones of unexpected experiences. You will always miss out on the things you never give a chance to.
That is one of the main reasons I was so eager to take on this challenge. And it confirmed it again – I was missing out by staying away from certain types of music just because I am too comfortable with what I already know and love. Experimentation is a must every once in a while.
Should I do a round two of the challenge with some of the other suggestions I have?
I was never particularly interested in Shakira’s music despite her overwhelming influence on the modern music scene. I would hear her smash hits on the radio, I would enjoy them and feel the charisma and outstanding energy. Nevertheless, the artist would never become someone I would sit down and attentively listen to.
You love this song or you are lying
Rightfully carrying the title Queen of Latin Music, Shakira is a name every person should respect. She is one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time and a voice you can hardly mistake for someone else.
I doubt there is a person who has not sung along to classics like Hips Don’t Lie, Whenever, Wherever, Beautiful Liar or Waka Waka (This Time For Africa). You have certainly danced along to her outworldly tunes, making you do things you never thought your body is capable of.
Even though I have always enjoyed what I heard from Shakira, I never considered exploring a full album or going through her discography.
Finally doing that was an enjoyable, eye-opening experience. Diving into Oral Fixation Vol 2 showed me that the album abides the pop music standards in terms of being a compilation of separate songs instead of a coherent experience. However, this does not mean it is not worth the attention.
It unveiled a collection of different stories, tunes, and moods to take you on a rollercoaster of a journey for its 49-minute duration. Some tracks hit harder than others in terms of emotions or dance vibes, but all of them collectively proved why Shakira is one of the most recognized and respected names and voices in the music world.
In Oral Fixation Vol 2, Shakira uses her unique voice and powerful intuition for gripping dance rhythms merged with different inspirations to deliver a variety of stories.
The album itself is an instalment of a two-part continuation of the artist’s fifth studio release – Laundry Service (the first album Shakira primary sings in English). The inspiration behind the Oral Fixation records hides in biblical elements (visible on both covers) and Shakira’s personal feelings of being a very “oral person”.
The religious inspiration strikes quickly after you press play onthe record. Opener How Do You Do has the topic flowing from start to end.
Shakira explores social injustice and mass misfortune, clearly indicating her confusion and pain from witnessing the reality of the world we live in. The song starts in a way resembling a prayer towards God, however, it has a slightly attacking note and questions the existence of an Almighty entity that would allow those terrible things to happen.
What language do you speak
If you speak at all?
Are you some kind of freak
Who lives to raise the ones who fall?
It is interesting to note the song preserves a holy tone and sound throughout with a twist of typical Shakira pop/dance tunes incorporated to subtly diverge from the serious, dark atmosphere.
There is a noticeable switch around the middle of the song that confidently changes the atmosphere of the narrative. We hear a more forgiving and warm tone hinting about atonement and pushing forth the message of seeking peace and justice. That concerns humanity as a whole and shows the realization that it is all up to us, not to the God we worship or deny.
The start of the album is strong and explores a serious theme. Another piece positioned at the end of the tracklist has a similar feel and message.
Timor is upbeat and dancy with a highly energetic start invoking positive feelings. However, there is something in Shakira’s tone and the intrusive feeling of a protest/riot that comes later. Looking into the lyrics and story behind the song, it becomes clear why that is.
It’s alright, it’s alright
The planet’s split in three
‘Cause I’ll keep on selling records and you’ve got your MTV
Looking up the history of East Timor reveals that the country was forcefully occupied by the president of Indonesia in 1975. Over 200 000 people died, and the country did not gain independence until 1999.
The biggest problem in this historical fragment is how the western world carefully hid the terrors happening in East Timor due to Indonesia’s president buying weapons from the West. He also provided cheap labour by oppressing his own people to abide to the demands of the “developed world”.
It’s alright, it’s alright
If the news says half the truth
Hearing what we want’s
The secret of eternal youth
Shakira’s song rightfully highlights the manipulation of media and quick loss of interests in such tremendous issues simply because they do not directly affect us. The negligence of society and f*cked up value systems are ruthlessly exposed but graciously masked under the addictive rhythms and vocal execution.
A similar thematic (in a lighter tone) comes out in Animal City. Here, Shakira uses captivating metaphors to put forth the vicious nature of life and human relationships.
She uses an addictive combination of instrumentals, beats, and tempo to create her signature feel and delivers lyrics that hit hard once you listen closely.
‘Cause it’s an animal city
It’s a cannibal world
So be obedient, don’t argue
Some are ready to bite you
The first track features some of the most captivating guitar parts in any Shakira song. Mexican guitarist Carlos Santana is the one to blame – his feature plays a crucial role in the overall nostalgia-infused, melancholic mood (highlighted by the solo).
Illegal sends you to a strange, bittersweet trip down memory lane, probably due to the universal feelings we have all been victims of at some point. It has an almost ballad-like nature flashing pictures of love, deception, heartbreak, and desire.
Don’t Bother follows a similar formula that turns it into a captivating heartbreak anthem. It is the perfect song to literally dance your pain away with Shakira’s lovely but powerful vocals taking the lead.
Your Embrace features the unrequired love element again with a powerful flow of sadness and longing for connection. A beautiful instrumental completes the highly emotional lyrical substance and vocal execution to turn the song into a heartbreak go-to comfort song.
Oral Fixation Vol 2 is rich in nostalgia and melancholia. And Shakira knows how to deliver it.
The Day And The Time is a good example – it shows the pop diva longing to rebuild a failed relationship and asking for another chance at love. The song is a good representation of a tough period in a relationship where hardships and struggles prevail, but you still try to cling to hope.
Nostalgia and melancholia overflow both in lyrics and sound in Dreams For Plans as well. The track reveals a look back at the “good old days” – carefree times in a happy relationship that now seem impossible to reach.
Shakira once again plays with listeners’ emotions by touching a universal set of feeling we have all experienced. She goes on to ask the haunting questions of why things changed and how life became so complicated to finish off the emotional destruction.
The artist does not neglect situations where she is the one to blame. Costume Makes The Clown shows her take responsibility for doing wrong. The whole environment of the song is apologetic and confessional, highlighted by showing honest remorse for how things turned out.
The rock-inspired instrumental and energy give the track an extra kick of power and emotional value.
The promises I made to you went down the sink
Really hope I haven’t harmed your self esteem
Something also has a confessional tone but a drastically different direction. Appreciation fuels the track expressing love, dedication, and gratitude. A sweet and emotional piece with an almost acoustic nature highlighting the raw, honest feelings that inspired it.
When I look into your eyes
They say to me that God still exists
Oral Fixation Vol 2 includes one of Shakira’s biggest hits – Hips Don’t Lie. The song is an encapsulation of the artist’s approach towards music. The title comes from her belief that hips never lie – they can feel when a song is ready, so until they start moving to the rhythm, the track is not finished.
This particular piece is a dance club all-time favourite for a reason. It is impossible not to sing along and move when the beat starts, no matter how tired you are. The always recognizable rhythm and tempo are an instant mood and energy booster.
Salsa influence, trumpet incorporation, reggaeton and classical Latino pop elements all merge in a beautiful mess to create the dance anthem of generations.
Hey You has a similar effect with its festive, triumphant feel and seductive, tempting vocal execution. It has a retro cabaret vibe and shows Shakira display another vocal range she seems to easily bend to her will.
Shakira is well-recognized and widely respected, but I still think she does not get enough credit for what she manages to do. The woman has one of the strongest and most diverse vocal techniques in the history of music. She combines that with superior Latino dance charm both in her beat-instrumental relationships and her stunning choreography.
The artist should be a standard to any pop performer striving to create a quality end result. Her leadership unites the many elements of a song and video to deliver something that will remain loved for years ahead. There is no point to hide it – we all love Shakira and vibe to her music every once in a while.
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