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'Shakira' review: 'The Voice' judge lets her freak flag fly

This CD cover image released by RCA shows

This CD cover image released by RCA shows the latest release by Shakira. Credit: AP / Uncredited

Shakira forged a bold, distinctive career in pop long before she reached the mainstream as a judge on "The Voice."

Her last album, "She Wolf," was a wild experiment in dance pop that stretched boundaries at every turn, pulling together world beat, synth pop and whatever else fit in her unique, musical view. On her new album, "Shakira." (RCA), however, she is more focused than ever on charming those who have heretofore been unmoved by her truth-telling hips.

She starts with the megawatt duet with Rihanna, "Can't Remember to Forget You," that simply screams smash and follows with one clever pop twist after another. Sometimes, she recaptures new wave, especially in "Chasing Shadows," which sounds like a Latin Pat Benatar fronting the Pet Shop Boys. Sometimes, she goes after the Pitbull market, especially in the stomping "Dare (La La La)," which is already in an ad for Activia yogurt and may or may not be a theme for the upcoming World Cup in Brazil.

But Shakira doesn't stop there. She teams up with fellow "Voice" judge Blake Shelton on the country-tinged pop of "Medicine," which, to both their credits, works out far better than anyone would expect. She heads into Taylor Swift acoustic confessional territory in the lovely "23," though T-Swizzle would never try a line such as, "I used to think there was no God, but then you looked at me with your blue eyes and my agnosticism turned into dust."

Yes, even when Shakira is trying to play it safe, she can't help but let her freak flag fly.


SHAKIRA

"Shakira"

THE GRADE A-

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BOTTOM LINE Way more than just "The Voice."

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