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Shakira Is Grateful for Heartbreak on ‘Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,’ a Latin Pop Music Odyssey: Album Review

On her first album in seven years, Shakira is focused on her evolution.

The singer solidified herself as a pillar of international pop stardom, propelled by her English-language debut “Laundry Service,” in 2001, and in her freshly-released “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran,” she makes a grand re-entrance into society after what she’s openly called the “darkest hours” of her life, ones defined by the tabloid gossip surrounding her finances and very public breakup with soccer player Gerard Piqué.

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But don’t be mistaken: “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” (“Women No Longer Cry”) isn’t dark thematically. Instead, Shakira flexes the progression of her longstanding craft. She honors the rock and pop roots she cultivated in her native Barranquilla, Colombia, while also displaying her interest in regional subgenres, as she’s done in the past with Afrobeats and Arabic pop. On her 12th studio album, Shakira fully invests in these cross-genre marvels — songs with rapper Cardi B, Tejano band Grupo Frontera, Mexican corridos group Fuerza Regida and EDM masters Bizarrap and Tiesto, among others — that together represent the soundscape of current-day Latin pop.

Cardi is featured on the opener “Puntería,” a nu-disco pop song where Cardi spits playful rap verses (“I got a empanada, mama, that he love to eat”) and harmonizes in Spanish about getting shot with a love arrow and rejoicing in the allure of unadulterated romance (and great sex). Shakira’s voice is at its most syrupy in this song, though she mostly appears in the chorus. “Cohete,” a track she shares with fellow Latin Grammy-nominated collaborator, Rauw Alejandro, maintains a similar pep, coated in the same sugary pop melodies that makes for an easy listen.

Shakira’s star power shines through the most when she takes turns into Afrobeats on “Nassau,” where she’s solo but appears more confident than ever. From her bachata collaboration “Monotonía” with reggaeton star Ozuna, to the regional stylings of “El Jefe” and “(Entre Paréntesis),” Shakira solidifies her commitment to studying the current Latin pop landscape.

She gets a solid assist from the Avengers of Latin songwriting and production: Tainy and Albert Hype, producers for Bad Bunny; Keityn, who has written for Karol G and J Balvin, and Edgar Barrera, a highly acclaimed songwriter for top-charting acts including Grupo Frontera and Peso Pluma, among others.

Meanwhile, her mastery in hitmaking is on full display. The Karol G-featuring “TQG,” whose music video has been viewed on YouTube over a billion times, and her Guinness World Record-winning “Shakira: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53″ (with Bizarrap),” convey her penchant for memorable and clever one-liners (ahem, “Lucky that my breasts are small and humble, so you don’t confuse them with mountains”). Shakira has already made pop culture history with this album, penning the infamous “Vol. 53” line: “Yo solo hago música, perdón que te salpique,” (“I only make music, sorry if I splashed you”) that has a pun in the last word (salpique) referencing the name of her allegedly unfaithful ex-boyfriend and father of her children. From those early, 2023 records, it was clear Shakira was packing enough emotional and musical ammo to launch this album any way she wanted.

And so she did, choosing to honor the pain just as much as the love. In “(Entre Paréntesis),” a cumbia duet with Grupo Frontera’s Payo Solis, Shakira’s voice occasionally reaches a peak where it feels like it could bend and snap but it doesn’t — and the results are intrinsic growls, raw and magnetic.

Shakira’s love affairs with the acoustic guitars and piano keys make up the most vulnerable songs on this album like the confessional “Última” and “Acróstico,” which features her two young children. With “Cómo, Dónde y Cuándo” Shakira returns to the framework of guitars and drums she was best known for during her rockstar era with “Pies Descalzos, Sueños Blancos” and the harmonica-driven “Donde Están Los Ladrones.” When dance and disco pop came into play for her later albums, as did reggaeton, rockstar Shakira took a backseat, making this — no matter how updated it may sound to fit 2024 standards — a venture worth appreciating.

Shakira says she created this album as a means of therapy — exorcising any last bit of sorrow attached to her last few years — but, in the scope of the singer’s international legacy, “Las Mujeres Ya No Lloran” is the updated testament to her successful track record. She rejoices in the experimentation and liberation of the new school she helped build.

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